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20,000 Defiant Jews Celebrate Simhath Torah in Moscow Demonstration

More than 20,000 Moscow Jews — including many young people and women — danced with torah scrolls, sang Israeli songs and danced the horah in a Simhath Torah demonstration held in front of Moscow’s Central Synagogue last Thursday night, according to information reaching here today. While Simhath Torah has for years been the occasion for Moscow Jewry to display its Jewishness through song and dance on Arkiphova Street, fronting the Central Synagogue, this year’s demonstration was seen by foreign correspondents in Moscow as Russian Jewry’s answer to the Kremlin’s official anti-Israeli policy which has been intensified since last June’s Six-Day War and has spilled over in the controlled press to efforts to intimidate Russian Jewry. This year’s Simhath Torah crowds were the largest seen by foreigners in Moscow in many years.

Even while the Jews thus showed their solidarity with the Jewish Faith — and with Israel — further attacks against Jews appeared in the Soviet press this weekend. A well-known writer named Mikola Bikun, who had previously written many anti-Semitic articles, authored an article in the satirical Ukrainian journal, “Pepper,” accusing “Aryan” Jewish bankers and “Zionists” in Nazi Germany of having financed the gas chambers which ultimately were to be used for murdering European Jewry.

But the anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli attacks in the Soviet press did not deter the many thousands of Jews who celebrated Simhath Torah. They gathered at sundown and the singing and dancing continued until well after midnight. Young people kissed the Torah and competed for the privilege of dancing with the holy scroll. Some of the young men were in army uniform. Western correspondents observing the scene said the demonstrators seemed more defiant than usual as the Jews participated in the Simhath Torah celebration.

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