Sovietish Heimland Editor Says Trials Secret to Prevent Anti-semitic Stirrings

Aaron Vergelis, editor of Sovietish Heimland, the only Yiddish magazine published in the Soviet Union, contended today that the Leningrad trial of nine Jews and two non-Jews had been held in secret session “in order not to stir up anti-Semitic feelings among certain parts of the population.” Anti-Semitism, he said at a news conference, exists in the USSR today “as it does anywhere in the world where Jews live.” He predicted that all Soviet Jews who want to emigrate to Israel would be allowed to in due course, “but this will be a slow process, for administrative and bureaucratic reasons.” He noted that the Kremlin preferred not to let Soviet citizens go, but added that nonetheless it was not in the Kremlin’s interest to hold back “those elements who refuse to integrate.” Vergelis estimated that 1,000 Soviet Jews had left for Israel in 1970–”a considerable number considering the non-existence of diplomatic relations between the two countries as well as the fact that Russia’s planned economy precludes emigration.”

But he stated that there was a continuing process of Soviet Jewish assimilation within the USSR and that it should not be interfered with. He said the average Russian was not interested in the trials. The Soviet Jewish editor asserted that Yiddish was still a living language in the USSR, noting that Sovietish Heimland was published in 25,000-copy runs and that it reflected “the cultural, literary and social life of Soviet Jews.” (According to information reaching London today, the authorities in Birobidjan have been dressing up the library there after three decades of neglect and making it look “Jewish.” Until last month the library had only a few dilapidated copies of Yiddish classics, but now, it is reported, it has added a stock of Yiddish books by a number of Soviet Jewish writers, including Aaron Vergelis. Most of the books stocked there are in Russian, since the library caters to the general population of 200,000 and not specifically to the 12,000 Jews.)

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