12,000 Jews, Mostly Young, Dance and Sing in Moscow to Celebrate Simhat Torah

About 12,000 Moscow Jews sang and danced on the quarter-mile long Arkhipov St. outside the Choral Synagogue last night in a spontaneous celebration of Simhat Torah. Eyewitnesses said that youngsters outnumbered the middle aged and elderly. They sang traditional Jewish songs, including “Hava Nagila” and some groups chanted. “I am a Jew, we are all Jews.”

The normally quiet street near the headquarters of the central committee of the Soviet Communist Party was closed to traffic by police. There was no interference with the celebration which has become a Jewish tradition in Moscow on Simhat Torah. But some elderly Jews told foreign observers that they doubted it celebrations of the holiday were allowed on the same scale in other Soviet cities with large Jewish populations like Kiev. Kharkov and Odessa.

One elderly Jew reportedly complained to visitors that Moscow’s 300,000 Jews had no central meeting place outside of the synagogue. The young people learned of the holiday by word of mouth because no Jewish calendars are published in the Soviet Union and the press never reports the event of religious holidays. The outpouring of emotion was seen by observers as a demonstration of identification with Israel by some Jews or simply of Jewish identity by others. Moscow has no formal Jewish schools but people in the Simhat Torah crowd said many youngsters studied Hebrew in private groups.

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