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Lithuanian Jews Eager to Emigrate to Israel; Proud to Be Jews

Lithuanian Jews are “very, very anxious to live in Israel,” but have “no hope whatsoever to get out.” a relative said today after a visit to Vilna. Miss Mascha Benya, a Lithuanian-born former singer of Hebrew and Yiddish songs, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Jews of her native country “are so anxious to hear what is going on outside the Iron Curtain in Jewish circles.” and in fact are “interested in everything” pertaining to Israel. “They are very proud to be Jews.” she said, “even proud of the (Jewish) Defense League. Lithuanian Jews were always Jewish-minded, especially Zionist-minded. But they feel so trapped there. If they do apply (for emigration permission) there’s the danger of losing their jobs.” Miss Benya, who visited her “very few living relatives in Vilna” last month, said that residents of Dubno, the site of a Soviet atomic reactor, “are not permitted to get any mail from abroad.” A cousin of Miss Benya’s in Kovno was deported to Siberia at the age of 11, along with her father, who died there of starvation, and her mother. The cousin is now married to a Russian non-Jew. Miss Benya said that Lithuanian Jews have been the chief victims of Soviet persecution, with more than 90 percent of them “killed off.” Most of the survivors live in Vilna, she said.

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