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Jewish Cultural Center to Open in Moscow Next Month with Festival

The Solomon Mikhoels Center, the Soviet Union’s first officially sanctioned Jewish cultural center in more than a half century, will open in Moscow on Feb. 12, Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress announced Monday.

It will offer books and films on Jewish history and culture, an art gallery of Jewish artists, lectures, concerts, special exhibitions, seminars and Hebrew classes.

The opening is part of a “Festival of Jewish Culture” in the Soviet capital to run from Feb. 12 to 22.

Bronfman stressed the historic significance of the event. “The Soviet government has given official recognition to the right of Jews to participate in their national cultural heritage,” he said.

The new center is named for Solomon (Shlomo) Mikhoels, the Jewish actor and cultural leader murdered at the orders of Josef Stalin in 1948. It is housed in what was formerly the Yiddish State Theater of which Mikhoels was the director.

The Mikhoels Center was established with the approval of the Soviet Ministry of Culture following negotiations with WJC Vice President Isi Leibler on Oct. 21. Leibler is head of the Australian Jewish community in Melbourne.

Confirmation of a liberalized Soviet policy toward its Jewish community was given to Bronfman during his meetings in November with Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and other senior officials in Moscow.

Bronfman, speaking Thursday evening in Columbus, Ohio, said, “This new development offers a great window of opportunity that Jews in the Diaspora and in Israel must take advantage of now, for no one can tell how long the window will remain open.”

He noted there “are new opportunities to practice the Jewish faith and express Jewish culture that the Soviet regime has recently made possible.”

EXHIBIT ON THE HOLOCAUST

Bronfman will be joined by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, who will deliver the major address at the official opening ceremonies for the center next month.

Another participant will be the prominent Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai.

Mikhoel’s daughter and granddaughter will come from Israel to attend as “testimony to the government rehabilitation of Soviet Jewish martyrs killed during the Stalinist black years,” the WJC said.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center will present the Moscow center with the first exhibit on the Holocaust produced by a Jewish institution to be officially shown in the USSR.

It is titled “Courage to Remember” and is in the Russian language.

Jewish singers from Israel, the United States and Australia will join Soviet Jewish performers in an opening concert that will include traditional and modern Hebrew songs.

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