NEW YORK (Sep. 4)
The Synagogue Council of America has offered to send rabbis to the Soviet Union where, it has found, the Jews face “the prospect of being without a single rabbi or religious teacher.” Announcement of the offer was made by Rabbi Henry Siegman, executive vice-president of the Council, and Prof. Seymour Siegel, of the Jewish Theological Seminary, both of whom had just returned from a visit to the USSR. Prof. Siegel is a member of the plenum of the Council, which is comprised of the rabbinical and lay organizations of Reform, Orthodox and Conservative Jewry in the United States.
The Council’s offer was made in a letter last week to the Soviet Embassy in Washington to which, to date, it has not replied. In the offer, the Council leaders stated the organization was “prepared to guarantee that our rabbis and teachers will not engage in any activities which are frowned upon by the Soviet regime and, of course, by the congregations.”
Rabbi Siegman and Prof. Siegel noted that, with the recent death of the rabbi of Kiev, “less than a handful of rabbis” has been left in the entire Soviet Union “and they are old men, and there is no one to take their place.” There are not only very few rabbis, they said, but there were also no facilities for training rabbis and religious teachers. They also noted that the Soviet Union has not carried out its promises to permit publication of Jewish prayer books.
The two Council spokesmen said they had found “evidence of anti-Jewish activities in the wake of the Soviet Government’s intense propaganda campaign against Israel.”