NEW YORK (Feb. 28)
More than 2000 Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe, most of them in the Soviet Union, are slated deliberately for confiscation and destruction, Rabbi Moses Rubin, president of the World Conference of European Rabbis, warned here today. He also told a press conference, called by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry that in the Soviet Union, the planned attacks on Jewish cemeteries were part of an overall Soviet plan to shatter the Jewish spirit and ultimately to destroy every vestige of Jewish identity in the USSR.
Rabbi Rubin told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the situation was most alarming in Russia, Hungary and Poland. He said a bill has been introduced to the Polish Parliament to nationalize the land in which the cemeteries are located. He called the activities “barbarism committed against the dead” and said it was a “world obligation” to prevent such acts.
Mayor Abraham Beame proclaimed today as “The Day for Jewish Cemeteries in Eastern Europe in New York City.” He called on New Yorkers to reflect on the significance of the day by endorsing a petition of the World Conference to the United Nations, asking for action to prevent the desecrations. He said the petition requires one million signatures.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Soviet Jewry organization, said that in recent weeks, “we have become aware, through conversations with Jewish activists in the Soviet Union, of a concerted campaign by the Soviet government to desecrate and to seize Jewish burial grounds. Rabbi Rubin displayed photos of desecrated Jewish cemeteries in the USSR and others left untended to a point where “they will soon fade into oblivion.”
Hoenlein reported that in Lvov a Jewish cemetery was confiscated and turned into a market place. In Odessa, the government is trying to take over land where a cemetery is located which is the resting place of many Jewish leaders. He said the Conference was asking Soviet officials to halt the campaign and to allow the families of those buried in the threatened cemeteries enough time for disinterment and removal of the remains to Israel. (By Yitzhak Rabi)