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Prelate of Orthodox Russian Church Sees No Reason for Banning U.S. Visit by Moscow Rabbi

Metropolitan Nikodim, chairman of the department of external church affairs for the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate, told a delegation from the Synagogue Council of America this weekend that he saw no reason why Soviet authorities would prevent Moscow Chief Rabbi Yehuda Leib Levin from accepting a Synagogue Council invitation to visit the United States.

However, the Russian prelate declined to convey to Rabbi Levin the invitation from the Synagogue Council. He told the delegation that the formal invitation should go to Rabbi Levin through “proper channels.” He said he would be pleased to convey to Rabbi Levin the greetings of American Jewry. After the meeting, Rabbi Jacob Rudin, SCA president, said that the Synagogue Council would send the invitation immediately to Rabbi Levin.

The Russian prelate told the American Jewish religious leaders that not only the Russian Orthodox church but other Christian denominations in the Soviet Union, as well as the Moslem community, had been allowed to establish formal contacts with international church bodies, such as the World Council of Churches, and to visit co-religionists abroad.

Rabbi Rudin then commented that Soviet Jewry had not been allowed to establish such contacts, and expressed the hope to the prelate that Soviet authorities would facilitate Rabbi Levin’s acceptance of the SCA invitation. Other members of the delegation asked the prelate and his three colleagues, who left for the Soviet Union, about the failure of Soviet officials to keep promises for publication of Jewish prayerbooks, permission for Jews to maintain a seminary for training of rabbis and for reunion of Jewish families. The Russian prelate said he was not sufficiently informed about the details of Jewish life to reply to such questions.

Other members of the SCA delegation were Rabbi Solomon J. Sharfman, chairman of the SCA commission on international affairs; Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, executive vice-president of the Rabbinal Assembly; Rabbi Henry Siegman, SCA executive vice-president; and Rabbis Joseph P. Sternstein and Harold Gordon, of the New York Board of Rabbis.

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