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Intellectuals Dispute Future of Jewish Culture in the Soviet Union

The thesis that Jewish culture in the Soviet Union is irretrievably doomed and must be given up for lost was disputed at a gathering of Israeli scholars and intellectuals, many of them recent immigrants, here today. The gathering was addressed by Prof. Mikhail Zand, a prominent Orientologist at Moscow’s Institute of Eastern Studies, who emigrated to Israel with his family last year after a prolonged struggle to obtain an exit visa.

Zand, currently teaching at the Hebrew University, maintained that Jewish culture in the USSR has no future and that in fact most of it has already been destroyed by the Soviet State. He said that Jewish culture was being spread through the medium of the Hebrew language using underground channels but predicted that this too will end and the writers will wind up in jail or go to Israel.

Prof. Chone Shmerook, head of the Hebrew University’s Yiddish department, took issue with Zand’s gloomy prognostication. He said that what Zand was advocating was very grave because it gives up for lost millions of Russian Jews who will remain in Russia. “No one thinks of abandoning the Jews in the West who are not emigrating, and for the same reason Jews who remain in Russia should not be the victims of discrimination and their cultural life must be protected and preserved,” Prof. Shmerook said. He urged world public opinion not to neglect the Russian Jews who are not emigrating to Israel and who have to fight for their national and cultural rights in the USSR.

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