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Smolar Book on Soviet Jewry Published This Week

American Jewish leadership, in conducting its active campaign for the rights of Soviet Jewry, is stressing strongly the demand for permitting Soviet Jews to emigrate. It is, however, neglecting to advance forcefully specific requests for maintaining and strengthening Jewish life and identity of those hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Soviet Union who cannot, or will not, emigrate from the Soviet Union because of various circumstances, but who wish to live Jewishly. This opinion is expressed by Boris Smolar, Editor-In-Chief Emeritus of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, in his book “Soviet Jewry Today and Tomorrow,” published Thursday by The Macmillan Company.

The book is based on Smolar’s visit to the Soviet Union where he discussed all aspects of Jewish life there with more than 200 Soviet citizens–Jewish and non-Jewish. Pointing out in his book that he found the Soviet officials very sensitive to complaints that anti-Jewish discrimination exists in the Soviet Union, Smolar expresses the opinion that much could be achieved for the Jews inside the Soviet Union if American Jewish leadership would not generalize its demands, but would be more specific.

NEED FOR CONCRETE, SPECIFIC DEMANDS

Instead of requesting in general terms full rights for Soviet Jewry in the fields of Jewish religion, Jewish culture and Jewish identity–at a time when the Soviet authorities deny the existence of discrimination in these fields–it would be more productive if American Jewish leadership would advance concrete demands, Smolar says. The Soviet authorities he states acceded to such demands as for example printing of a Siddur and the restoration of matzoh baking.

American Jewish leadership, Smolar writes, concentrated on demands that the Soviet government should permit emigration of Jews – a specific demand – and the Soviet authorities yielded in a small way. The author advises that U.S. Jewish leaders should also concentrate on a number of concrete requests upon which the future of Judaism and Jewish identity in the USSR depends. Among these demands should be publication of a Jewish history book in the Russian language which Soviet Jewish youths are seeking.

They should also request permission to establish a central representative body of the existing more than 60 synagogues throughout the Soviet Union. Such a demand on the part of American Jewry is essential to the continuity of the existence of Jewish religious institutions in the USSR. Smolar reports he found high Soviet officials inclined to grant this request, since other religions in the Soviet Union do have such central representative bodies. Such a body could become the central address of the Jewish religious communities in the Soviet Union which are widely scattered and completely isolated from each other, Smolar points out.

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