New York (Sep. 10)
Thousand of Soviet Jews visited the booth of the Association of Jewish Book Publishers (AJBP) at the week-long third International Moscow Book Fair, Sol Scharfstein, president-elect of the AJBP and president of KTAV Pub-
lishing, said at a press conference here today. Dr. Israel Kugler, president of the Workmen’s Circle, told the press conference that there was a “hunger and need” for Jewish books, records and educational materials in Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish. Both Scharfstein and Kugler were delegates to the book fair, which closed Tuesday, where they staffed the AJBP exhibit at which more than 800 titles of Jewish interest were on display.
“We were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response of the Soviet Jews, many of whom traveled ten to twelve hours and stood on line for several hours just to attend the fair and to touch their Jewish heritage,” Kugler said. The playing of Hebrew and Yiddish melodies at the booth during the six days of the fair evoked a nostalgia among older Jews and sparked a keen interest among the younger generation.
“For the first time,” Scharfstein said, “we have demonstrated to the Soviet publishing authorities the seriousness of our mission and the possibilities for opening up a two-way commercial dialogue. Soviet publishing officials will be visiting the United States in the next few months and have expressed a desire to meet with us.”
While the delegation was enthusiastic over the public response to the exhibit and the cooperation of the book fair officials, they were nonetheless disappointed at the practice of censorship. “It is ironic that two books censored this year had been approved for display in the past,” Scharfstein said. The two works banned for exhibit by Soviet censors were the American Jewish Yearbook published by the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Publication Society of America, and the children’s book, “My People: Abba Eban’s History of the Jews,” published by Behrman House.
Kugler said the Workmen’s Circle-produced plastic records of Hebrew and Yiddish songs were not allowed by the Soviet authorities to be distributed at the book fair, despite the fact that similar records were approved at the previous fair in 1979. “All in all, it was an experience we shall never forget,” said Scharfstein and Kugler, “and we look forward to exhibiting at the 1983 Moscow book fair.”