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Pressure Feared on Jews to Settle in Birobidjan

A Reform rabbi who is considered an expert on Soviet affairs, warned today that Soviet authorities may stop granting Jews exit visas to go to Israel and start pressuring them to settle in Birobidjan. Rabbi George B. Lieberman of Rockville Centre, L.I., chairman of the Soviet Jewry committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, predicted such a “reversion to Stalinist methods” in his report to the CCAR’s 83rd annual convention here.

Birobidjan, a province in Eastern Siberia, was set up as an autonomous Jewish region in 1926 but failed to attract substantial Jewish settlement. According to current reports its population is largely non-Jewish. Rabbi Lieberman said he feared “the time is soon at hand where Russian Jews will be told that if you don’t like to live in Moscow or Leningrad, then by all means live with your fellow Jews, not in Israel but in the Jewish autonomous region created for you since 1926.” The rabbi said the Soviet authorities would adopt such a line “in order to silence the demands for Jewish emigration and equal cultural and religious rights by Soviet Jews.”

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