Soviet Jewry Expert Presents Bleak Picture of Soviet Jews

A leading expert an Soviet Jewry portrayed a bleak picture of Jewish life in the Soviet Union, especially as contrasted to conditions in Eastern Europe.

“Deprivation, disability and disintegration characterize its status” Dr. William Korey, B’nai B’rith’s director of international policy research today told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations. “The most striking difference, both with respect to Judaism in East Europe and with respect to other major religious bodies in the USSR, is the absence of a central or federative structure.”

Korey said this lack “results in the fragmentation and vulnerability of religious life. It also makes the enjoyment of specified and unspecified rights difficult, if not impossible.”

Soviet Jews do not publish periodicals as other religious groups do and a Hebrew Bible has not been published since the late 1920s, Korey said. While the Russian Orthodox Church and various other churches in the Soviet Union are affiliated with the World Council of Churches and other international religious groups, Soviet Jewry, without a religious center, has no such formal connections.

SITUATION OF JEWS IN EASTERN EUROPE

Korey noted that while in 1976 there were 450 synagogues, there are now only 50, half of them in Georgia, the northern Caucasus and the Central Asian Republic where less than 10 percent of Soviet Jews live. Rumania and Hungary have more synagogues. In addition, the USSR has no facility for training rabbis, and four Soviet students are now attending the Budapest Rabbinical Seminary.

Korey noted that both the state and Communist Party assault Judaism. At the same time during the last few years, “Zionism has been presented to the Soviet media as the principal enemy of mankind.” But in fact, it is “Judaism and Jewish tradition that is particularly attacked, “this includes” an “extraordinary assault on the Hebrew language,” Korey said.

In contrast, he noted that Hungary, with 80,000 Jews, and Rumania, with 37,000, permit religious, social and educational Jewish activities. Elsewhere, in Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, Korey said that Jewish life is deteriorating because of a small population, mainly aged Jews.

NEXT STORY