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Thousands Participate in Freedom Festival for Soviet Jewry

Thousands of New Yorkers celebrated yesterday a Simchat Torah “Festival of Freedom” on the steps of the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan as Soviet Jews prepared to courageously sing and dance in the streets of Moscow.

The festivities here were marked with a Torah procession, “Succah mobiles,” colorfully decorated kosher food stalls and danging to the tunes of Jewish musical bands. The event was sponsored by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry.

Participating in the festival were numerous local civic leaders, and Senatorial rivals James L. Buckley and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Congressmen from New York who have been leading the fight in Washington for human rights and freedom for Soviet Jews, spoke of their individual efforts in behalf of “prisoners of conscience” each has adopted.

Lydia Kornfeld, a long-time leading Moscow activist who recently received permission to live in Israel, and Rabbi Shlomo Balter of Congregation Shaare Tzedek gave moving reports on current conditions inside the Soviet Union. Ms. Kornfeld, whose struggle to emigrate to Israel lasted five years, is in the U.S. to tour various Jewish communities under the invitation of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. She was among 40 Jews arrested for activities in March, 1971. Now living in Rehovot, she, her husband and two daughters received their exit permits in February, 1976. Ms. Kornfeld’s program in the communities across the United States is being coordinated with the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council.

Bronx Borough President Robert Abrams, GNYCSJ chairman, who presided at the festival, said the event served as “an urgent expression of support for Soviet Jews who will celebrate the Simchat Torah holiday at the Moscow Synagogue. He pointed out that only a few days ago the Soviet government arrested a group of Jewish activists for attempting to hold a prayer service on the 35th anniversary of the Nazi massacre of more than 100,000 Jews at Babi Yar, near Kiev.

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