Georgian Jewish Emigres Reject Temporary House of Worship

Jewish emigres from Soviet Georgia, apparently incited by religious zealots, refused today to accept the keys to a temporary house of worship in Ashkelon that was put at their disposal by the Absorption Ministry until a permanent synagogue can be built. Ministry officials and the rabbi of the Georgian community in Ramleh went to Ashkelon for the presentation ceremonies.

They were greeted by angry Georgian Jews who refused to enter the temporary sanctuary claiming that if they did, a permanent one would never be built. Youngsters, believed to be from an ultra-Orthodox sect, ware reportedly seen exhorting the emigres not to take the key. The Absorption Ministry said it would ask the police to find out who the agitators were and what group was behind them.

Orthodox elements in Israel and the US have recently attacked the government for allegedly not providing for the religious needs of Georgian Jews who are strictly observant and insist on living in large clans with easy access to a synagogue.

Meanwhile, members of the Maoz society, a group of activists on behalf of Soviet Jews, began today a 24-hour fast at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in support of Jewish emigration rights from the USSR. They said that despite assurances to the contrary, Jewish immigrants here have been receiving letters from families in Russia whose visa applications were rejected. They cited letters from the six-member Eligulashvili family in Kutaisi, Soviet Georgia and the four members of the Korenfeld family in Moscow. Korenfeld, an engineer, reportedly lost his job and his daughter was expelled from college after the family applied for exit permits.

NEXT STORY