B’nai B’rith Chapter Begun in Moscow; Talks Could Lead to Opening Office

Thirty-eight leaders of the Moscow Jewish community have founded the first unit of B’nai B’rith in the Soviet Union, B’nai B’rith International reported here Tuesday.

In addition, a delegation of American Jewish leaders, in discussions with Soviet officials in Moscow this month, raised the possibility of opening B’nai B’rith offices in Moscow and other cities in the Soviet Union.

The B’nai B’rith chapter was organized by a delegation that visited the Soviet Union Dec. 12 to 19. It was headed by Seymour Reich, international president of B’nai B’rith.

A spokesman for the organization told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Soviet Union now becomes the 42nd country worldwide to have a B’nai B’rith presence.

He said the questions of a charter, facilities and offices for the new unit are still pending.

B’nai B’rith does not claim to be the first international Jewish organization to embrace Jews living in the Soviet Union.

The World Emunah Women of Israel inaugurated chapters in Leningrad and Moscow last Aug. 1, according to a report from Jerusalem.

The group led by Reich met with high-ranking officials representing the Culture and Foreign Affairs ministries, and with Konstantin Kharchev, chairman of the Soviet State Council on Religious Affairs.

According to Reich, Soviet authorities agreed to enact legislation setting specific limits on how long a citizen may be denied an exit visa on grounds of knowledge of state secrets.

Officials agreed to ease the requirement that all relatives of a person must approve emigration before a visa is issued.

RELEASE OF REFUSENIKS

B’nai B’rith asked for the immediate release of all refuseniks and a “systematic, substantial and sustained emigration process involving new applicants.”

Reich reported that the authorities promised to relax cultural restrictions, including prohibitions on the teaching of Hebrew. B’nai B’rith urged that Hebrew be designated the official language of the Jewish minority.

Permission was granted in principle to allow foreign rabbis to serve communities in the USSR, Reich said.

He said another initiative involved proposed exchanges and visits of Soviet youth and American Jewish teen-agers affiliated with the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.

Discussions also focused on the registration and certification of Hebrew teachers, the publication of Jewish books in the Russian language and exchanges of exhibits.

The delegation discussed the Arab-Israeli conflict with Soviet officials and Moscow’s desire to host a world human rights conference.

Reich said the deputy procurator general, Vladimir Andreyev, promised the group judicial cooperation regarding Nazi war criminals and a full accounting soon of the case of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat arrested by the Red Army in Budapest in 1945.

Reich said the delegation was told that the notoriously anti-Semitic organization Pamyat was not state-sanctioned.

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