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Largest Group of Soviet Jews Arrive in Israel; Riga Trial Set for April 5

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The largest group of Soviet Jews ever to arrive in Israel landed at Lydda Airport this morning in a special El Al jet. Western newsmen at the airport estimated their number at 150. The previous record, set a few weeks ago, was an estimated 110. Today’s contingent included Jews from Moscow, Kiev, Riga and for the first time in a long time, Kharkov. The eight Kharkov Jews who arrived today said three more would be coming in the next few days. Meanwhile, there were reports today that the Riga trial of Jews, reported earlier to be scheduled for April 15, has been set for April 5. The defendants will be Ruth Aleksandrovich, Arkady Shpilberg, Boris Maftsier and Mikhail Shepshelovich. Maftsier reportedly has submitted to official pressures and agreed to sign a confession to anti-Soviet activities.

The Riga Jews who arrived today included Yiddish poet Mendel Kleinstein, who on touching ground recited a poem of his recalling his waiting for this day: “And it did come at last. For 2,000 years have I envied the doves who can fly freely wherever they wish, and I was closed in the cage. Now I am free again.” Chaim Spivakowski, a Kharkov economist, said the Jews of that city had never believed they would be able to leave the Soviet Union. “It was a dream,” he said. “Several people did send in applications but never received replies. Now that some people did receive permits there will be, no doubt, a large wave of applications from Kharkov Jews who wish to come to Israel.” Spivakowski added, however, that the secret police have increased their activities in the Kharkov Jewish community, searching the homes of emigration applicants and confiscating Hebrew books and pamphlets. The Kiev arrivals said a young Jew named Leonid Polashinski had filed for emigration and for cancellation of his citizenship but was recruited into the Army.

They said he subsequently filed again, but has received no reply. Another 20 or so Ukrainian Jews, they said, recently applied for emigration in order to live with their brethren in Israel–instead of for the Soviet-approved reason of family reunion–but have not yet received replies. On the positive side, the Kiev arrivals said, some 40 Kiev Jews were invited to the Interior Ministry and advised that their applications had been approved. Feivush Zlotkin of Riga said his 46-year-old sister, Assia Levin, was arrested a few months age with other Jews all charged with “subversive actions”–studying Hebrew and singing Hebrew songs. His sister was later released, Zlotkin said, but has to report for daily interrogation at the police station, where she is pressured to name other “subversives” or “be put into a mental asylum.” Zlotkin said there were some indications his sister might be used as a witness against her fellow Jews.

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