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Slepak Confirms Soviet Militia Broke Up Passover Synagogue Service

In a dramatic Moscow-Washington telephone call that was frequently interrupted, an American trade union leader heard Vladimir Slepak, a Soviet Jewish activist, confirm that Soviet militia terminated a Passover service at Moscow’s main synagogue. Soviet and synagogue officials have denied that soldiers stopped the prayer service and herded the worshippers into the street.

During the telephone conversation last Friday, Slepak also told Glenn E. Watts, president of the Communications Workers of America, that he and his wife and their son would begin a hunger strike yesterday to protest Soviet government refusal to grant them exit visas to emigrate to Israel. They had applied for the visas April 13, 1970.

Speaking in English, Slepak said that his conversation with Watts was the first trans-Atlantic talk he had been permitted to make in a year. His own phone was torn out in his home on May 21, 1961.

Watts said that he thought Slepak was permitted to engage in the conversation because the Soviet government recognized that a workers’ union was involved. During the approximately 15 minute call, witnesses, who included newsmen, trade unionists and members of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, the organization which originated the “messenger call,” noted that there were at least a half dozen interruptions.

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