Latvian Jews Subjected Almost Daily to Sneers, Anti-semitic Expressions

Jews in a major city in the Soviet Union, in which conditions are typical of the entire country, fear that they will suffer further repression in view of the constant anti-Semitic atmosphere there. This has been reported by the American Jewish Committee in a summary of the current status of Jews in Riga, the capital of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic. The report, prepared by the Paris office of the AJ Committee, indicates that the 30-35,000 Jews in Riga feel apprehensive over the recent arrests of several Jews in connection with an alleged plot last June to hijack a plane in Leningrad. They are also concerned about the frequent public sneers to which they are subjected and the almost constantan anti-Semitic expressions and actions in everyday life. Typifying this-atmosphere are the following illustrations cited in the report: “A geography course at the University of Riga. The subject is the lands of the Middle East. The professor turns to a Jewish student and asks, ‘What do you think of the actions of your people?’ Asks the student: ‘Who are my people?’ Response: ‘The Israeli Aggressors.’” “A laboratory in the same city. A Jewish professional is scheduled, by virtue of knowledge and experience, to become the head of an important section he has virtually created. He is shunted aside and, it is made clear, only because he is Jewish. The post is given to an anti-Semitic colleague who creates new difficulties for him.”

The report notes that the Jewish choir that once existed in the city has been forced out of existence by local officials and that Yiddish-language concerts are no longer given. The AJ Committee document indicates that “virtually all of the Jews of Riga now wish to leave for Israel. Only very few, however, are actually permitted to depart.” The report adds that persons in sensitive positions who apply for emigration “are fired from their posts upon making application.” In addition, the report states, “when the head of a family applies, moreover, this is immediately noted on his children’s school record. Such notation cuts the youngsters off from any further, more advanced education.” As far as Jewish identity is concerned, the report declares, “Riga Jewish youth have little or no Jewish education, or knowledge of things Jewish, but this generation has been driven by circumstances to be strongly Zionist.”

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