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Dr. David Lwowitch, member of the praesidium of the World Ort Union, who has left after a short visit here during which he conducted negotiations with the government for settling foreign Jews in Biro-Bidjan, has found the Jewish situation in the Soviet Union much better than it was five years ago when he last visited this country.

This was stated by Dr. Lwowitch in an interview which he gave me prior to his departure from the Soviet Union for Paris, whence he will sail for the United States to report on his Soviet visit and to seek funds for the work of the Ort in Soviet Russia.

“Very profound changes have occurred in the economic position of the Jewish population in pace with the vast constructive work of the Soviet Union,” he said. “The problem of the declassed Jews, which was so acute a few years back, is now very much moderated. The number of Jews in agriculture is about the same, roughly a quarter of a million souls, but the number of Jewish workers in industry and the number of Jewish artisans in the cooperatives have increased many times over since my last visit. The number of Jewish employes in the State institutions and in the cooperative system has also considerably increased.

“There are still, however, a considerable number of Jews who demand attention on the part of the Soviet government and the social organizations. Those are the Jewish population of those townships which lie far away from the industrial centers. The question has been partly solved by sending a part of the population on the land in Crimea, in the Ukraine and Biro-Bidjan, and retraining the declassed in settling them in artisan cooperatives and industry.

“But much further work is necessary in this direction. The Moscow representatives of the ORT Union are, with the aid of the government, conducting reconstructive work in a number of centers in various directions. The ORT Union has organized in many towns in the Ukraine and in White Russia and in several centers in Russia a number of new artisan cooperatives, and is providing for the existing cooperatives equipment, raw materials, credit aids and technical instructors.

“The work of the ORT extends now to sixty various enterprises, wood working, tricottage, weaving, metal work, toy manufacturing, etc., in which about 7,000 workers are employed, the majority of them Jewish declassed. The work in these enterprises is being carried on under the instruction of highly qualified specialists of the ORT.

“In addition the cooperatives received during last year raw material on credit to the amount of 650,000 roubles.

“Another form of aid for former declassed carried through by the ORT,” Dr. Lvovitch declared, “has been the import into the Soviet Union of machinery and tools without paying customs dues, and with the funds of relatives living abroad. More than 3,000 machines have been brought into the country in this way by the ORT, enabling about 10,000 declassed and artisans to earn their livelihood. Most of them have now become members of the artisan cooperatives.

“The ORT has also been instrumental in introducing artisan cooperatives in the Jewish collective farms of the Crimea and Ukraine as subsidiary work, mainly for women and during the winter months. There are forty-eight such small factories organized by the ORT in the Jewish villages, employing more than 1,500 persons, mostly women, earning an average of 150 roubles a month, which is a very large sum in the villages, apart from the fact that these women are taught a skilled craft.

“Special mention must be made of the weaving factory in Jellol, in the Crimea, the first in that region, which now employs 100 Jewish collective farmers.

“The creation of the Jewish autonomous region in Biro-Bidjan has opened up the question of the ORT of extending its activities to Biro-Bidjan,” Dr. Lwowitch said. “At the end of last year, a commission headed by Jacob Zegalnitzsky, Moscow representative of the ORT Union, went out to Biro-Bidjan to acquaint themselves on the spot in what direction the activity of the ORT Union in Biro-Bidjan should go.

“The ORT Union is now taking part in the building of two works which will employ 300 persons. It has undertaken to provide the necessary equipment. In addition, it has decided to organize during 1935 a number of small artisan workshops in five centers in Biro-Bidjan.”

Dr. Lwowitch stressed the assistance given by the Soviet government to the ORT through government institutions, particularly the Comzet. This was greatly perceptible during the past year, when the difficult situation of the Jewish population of Germany, Poland, Rumania and other countries diverted a large part of the funds of the ORT Union, and at the same time the general crisis in Europe and America made the collection of funds more difficult, he said. The Soviet government did everything possible to promote the activity of the ORT Union in the Soviet countries.

Dr. Lwowitch together with Mr. Zegalnitzsky has visited M. Peter Smidovitch, vice-president of the Soviet Union and president of the Comzet.

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