NEW YORK (Feb. 27)
An organization which has frequently accused the Soviet Union of practicing religious and cultural repression against its Jewish citizens expressed surprise and regret today over refusal of Russian visas to a number of Western rabbis who had been invited to participate in the 75th birthday celebration for Rabbi Yehuda Leib Levin of Moscow’s Central Synagogue which were held last Sunday. Lewis H. Weinstein, chairman of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, said it was “tragic that more Jewish leaders were not present at this celebration which could have been an opportunity to open new vistas of communication between Soviet Jewry and Jews from around the world.” He said that while the Conference was “dubious” about the political motivations of the Soviet authorities in sanctioning the birthday observance, it sent Rabbi Levin a congratulatory telegram. “It is not known whether or not it was revealed to the 2,000 Jews who are reported to have attended the service.” he said.
A number of prominent rabbis from the U.S. and other Western countries, close friends of Rabbi Levin, were invited to the birthday fete by the head of the Moscow Jewish community, apparently with Soviet Government approval. But most of them were denied visas by Soviet Consulates or visas were not issued in time for them to make the trip.
An eye-witness at the birthday celebration reported that the only Communist bloc country represented was Hungary. Geza Seifert, head of the Hungarian Jewish community, addressed the throng in the Central Synagogue and reportedly drew exclamations of disbelief when he told them there were 30 synagogues in Budapest, a rabbinical seminary, a Jewish high school, hospital and other institutions. There are only three synagogues in Moscow and no other Jewish institutions.