A group of pro-Soviet American Jewish journalists and educators, including leading members of the editorial staff of the pro-Communist Jewish daily “Freiheit,”–among them Paul Novick, its editor–made public today the text o. a memorandum they sent to Soviet President Klementi Voroshilov and Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin, “urgently requesting” from the top Soviet leaders a public and authoritative statement dealing with the situation of the Jews in the Soviet Union.
The memorandum, dated October 12, asked what measures are being taken by the Soviet Government in the direction of re-establishment of Jewish cultural institutions. It noted that many people, irrespective of their view of the Soviet system, agreed that “the Soviet Union set the historic example of the liberation of peoples from all forms of national oppression,” and that the Jews “rejoiced” in the outlawing of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, as well as the saving by the Soviet regime of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Nazi extermination.
Recalling the shock suffered by many people at the revelations of injustice to Soviet Jews resulting “from the gross distortion of the Soviet legal system” and the steps being taken toward correction, the memorandum went on to express concern over current manifestations in relation to Soviet Jews. It pointed to discriminatory treatment of Jews in the standard Soviet reference work, the new edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, and the absence of any organized spokesmen for secular Soviet Jews.
Although the memorandum recognizes the “tremendous efforts” exerted by the Soviet Union to “right the wrongs committed during the years preceding 1953,” it registers “anxiety in respect to the reconstruction of Jewish communal and cultural life.”
“In submitting this memorandum,” the document says, “we are motivated by our interest in better understanding and cooperation among all peoples.” It affirms that “increased as well as hastened acts of reconstruction of Jewish life in the Soviet Union will have great value in strengthening friendly relations between our countries and will advance the objectives of peace and co-existence.”
ASKS FOR FULL JEWISH COMMUNAL AND CULTURAL LIFE IN THE U.S.S.R.
The memorandum expresses “concern” over the treatment of the Jewish people in Volume 15 of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, which appeared in 1952. “The section on Jews (Yevreyi), reduced to four columns as compared to 152 columns in the 1932 edition, negates the very existence of the Jewish people and even makes light of statistics pertaining to Jews, “the memorandum complains. “Great figures in Soviet Jewish life as well as world-renowned Yiddish writers, including the classics, have disappeared from all volumes of the new edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia published so far.
“We are happy to see that Jewish religious leaders are invited to the USSR by the Moscow rabbinate. But we are constrained to ask: who speaks for the secular Jews of the Soviet Union that comprise the majority of the Soviet Jewish people. We find it difficult to accept the premise that the communal and cultural life of Jews in the Soviet Union is limited to an exclusively religious status.
“For over 100 years a secular Jewish peoples culture developed in your country. This culture was nourished by the humanist and liberation struggles of the Russian people. After 1917 the Jewish people of the Soviet Union received the opportunity of realizing the full potentialities of their cultural creativeness. A rich Jewish culture flourished, expressed in daily newspapers, literary journals, state theatres, schools, scientific, literary and linguistic research institutions. All these enjoyed the full support of the Soviet government.
“Now we are faced with the tragic fact that all these institutions have completely vanished. It is inconceivable that Jewish culture in the Soviet Union has overnight become obsolete or historically superfluous as a result of supposed “integration.” Certainly the concept of ‘integration’ does not explain a situation where all Jewish cultural institutions that flourished many years suddenly disappear completely. Many facts prove that this theory of ‘integration’ runs counter to reality,” the memorandum states.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.