NEW YORK (Jun. 19)
A Hebrew edition of the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses, with Russian translation, will be published in the Soviet Union for the first time since the 1917 revolution, it was announced yesterday at a press conference here. The conference marked the return of three religious leaders and trustees of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation from their June 3-10 visit to the Soviet Union and Hungary: Rabbi Arthur Schneier, of Park East Synagogue in New York and president of the Foundation; Bishop Silas, head of the largest Greek Orthodox Diocese in the United States and chief aide to Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America; and the Rev. Donald R. Campion, editor-in-chief of the Jesuit national weekly, “America.”
Free emigration and the opportunity for religious and cultural survival for those Russians who wish to remain in the Soviet Union stand as the main purposes of the Foundation and of this trip, they said. The three-man team acknowledged on behalf of the Soviet government officials, much greater receptivity and willingness to admit that there does exist a problem in the matter of religion which cannot be solved with the old methods of repression that had been witnessed on their previous trip in 1966.
Yet, although they received assurances on the publication of the Torah and the promise to consider the creation of a central organization for Russian synagogues, Rabbi Schneier agreed that, taken in itself, this display of “gradualism” holds little importance, Viktor N. Titov, the newly appointed Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council for Religious Affairs, refused to discuss the possibility of free emigration, Rabbi Schneier stated. But the Foundation is also deeply concerned with the condition of religious life within the Soviet Union itself, and therefore these gradual considerations are vitally important, he stressed.
Rabbi Schneier explained “you cannot compare two opposites. You cannot say what is the importance of a Hebrew Torah when citizens are imprisoned and lose their jobs when they request permission to emigrate to Israel. A comparison simply does not exist between the two issues.” He concluded by emphasizing “the Hebrew Torah is important for those Russian Jews who wish to remain in Russia and retain their Jewish identity.”