NEW YORK (Jul. 25)
A petition signed by 40 Soviet Jews was presented to the Supreme Court of the Russian Republic last week backing up an appeal filed by the nine Jews convicted at the second Leningrad trial, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned from reliable Jewish sources today. The Soviet court on July 20 rejected the appeal which had asked only for a reduction of the sentences. The accompanying petition, however demanded that the accused be set free because they were Innocent of complicity in an alleged plot to hijack a Soviet airliner at Leningrad in June, 1970. According to the report, the petition was presented to the high court by a delegation of three representing the signers. The petition claimed that “confessions” and “regrets” that were obtained from the defendants were the results of “long interrogation and psychological pressure.”
Moshe Decter, coordinator of the Commission of Inquiry on the Rights of Soviet Jews has released the text of a letter from the Black civil rights leader Bayard Rustin to United Nations Secretary General U Thant. The letter disclosed that six of the nine defendants at the second Leningrad trial were among 37 Soviet Jews whom the authorities prevented from presenting a petition to Thant when he was in Moscow on June 14, 1971. Rustin wrote, “The very fact of their inability to petition the United Nations through your person, must in itself be a matter of great concern to the organization.” The petition had asked Thant to intercede personally on behalf of Jews prevented from emigrating from the USSR in violation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights to which the Soviet Union subscribes.
CRITICAL SHORTAGE OF RABBIS PERSISTS IN USSR
An interfaith delegation representing the Appeal Of Conscience Foundation, returning Friday from its fifth visit to the Soviet Union in five years, reported that Jewish religious life in the USSR has “further deteriorated” over the past year because of the “critical shortage” of rabbis and the lack of teachers, books and students “to make (a yeshiva) a reality.” The group nevertheless saw a glimmer of hope in the future of religious life in Russia, including that of the Jewish community. The delegation consisted of Rabbi Arthur Schneier, of Park East Synagogue here who is president of the Foundation; The Rev. Dr. Harold A. Bosley, of Christ Church, Methodist; The Rev. Thurston N. Davis, of the United States Catholic Conference; and former Congressman Francis E. Dorn. a Catholic lawyer, all vice presidents of the Conference. Their report said in part. “While the Soviet Union continues its officially atheistic position, we found a new willingness of government officials to discuss frankly the state of religion in their nation. We also found a growing inclination on their part to take pragmatically into account requests of believers. We sensed a greater confidence among the religious groups in their dealings with one another and with their government…There was a breakdown of their previous sense of isolation from other groups in the Soviet Union and throughout the world.”
The delegation said they were “encouraged” by the Soviet Government’s permission for several Jewish students to study at the rabbinical seminary in Budapest, Hungary. Such schools do not exist in the USSR. They added however, “We realize that this arrangement is at best a temporary palliative but it could be a start toward the renewal of Jewish spiritual leadership.”