Moscow Rabbi Sharply Criticized for Saying That Soviet Jewry Rally Was an Anti-soviet Event

Adolph Shayevich, the rabbi of Moscow’s main synagogue, has come under sharp criticism for his dismissal of the huge human rights rally in support of Soviet Jewry staged May 6 across from the United Nations in which tens of thousands of persons called on the Soviet Union to allow Jews the right to emigrate.

Shayevich told reporters, just one day after the rally in Dag Hammarski old Plaza that it was an “anti-Soviet demonstration and it was not concernec with the rights of Soviet Jews. Shayevich also denied reports of persecution and harassment of Soviet Jews.

The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith cautioned, however, that Shayevich, of the Choral Synagogue, “sadly is not free to speak for the Russian Jewish community, or even for himself. “If in fact Shayevich represented Soviet Jewish Prisoners of Conscience and Refuseniks, the ADL said, “He would not have been allowed to visit the United States in the first place.”

Shayevich is among a delegation of 20 Soviet clergymen and lay people touring the U.S. under the auspices of the National Council of Churches. While in New York, Shayevich, who does not speak English, talked to reporters in Russian and Hebrew, through an interpreter, after a luncheon sponsored by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an interfaith group, headed by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, who is also chairman of the World Jewish Congress-American Section.

Rabbi Avi Weiss, national chairman of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, said: “I feel deep pity for Rabbi Shayevich. He is an imprisoned puppet leader not free to tell the truth. Rabbi Arthur Schneier, however, is free to tell the truth and deserves our greatest rebuke.

“How can Rabbi Schneier sit by idly as Jewish activists are condemned as his guest absurdly claims that all is going well for Soviet Jews, ” said Weiss, spiritual leader of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.

Schneier is out of the country and unavailable for comment. Schneier was not present when a group of reporters were provided an opportunity to speak with Shayevich at the conclusion of the luncheon.

HERUT GROUP RE-EVALUATING PARTICIPATION IN WJC

Meanwhile, after the luncheon of May 7, Shayevich appeared at a closed-door meeting of the American Section of the WJCongress, a meeting which triggered the decision by the Herut Zionists of America to announce that it was forming a special committee to “re-evaluate Herut’s continued participation in the counter-productive programs of the World Jewish Congress.”

Rabbi Dov Aharoni-Fisch, Herut’s national executive director, called Shayevich’s swing through New York a “despicable debacle” and said Schneier “has brought shame to his synagogue and the WJC-American Section, even as he has contributed to the calamity facing Soviet Jewry. ” Schneier is senior rabbi of the Park East Synagogue where Shayevich spoke on May 5, the day before the Soviet Jewry rally.

According to Aharoni-Fisch, between 75-100 representatives of WJC-American Section affiliate organizations participated at the closed-door meeting with Shayevich. He said Shayevich, among other remarks, asserted that there were “absolutely no impediments or obstacles” for Jews who wish to practice their religion and culture in the Soviet Union.

NEXT STORY