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Moscow Jews Celebrate Simchat Torah in Public Demonstration

October 2, 1964
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

One of the most unusual demonstrations ever witnessed in the Soviet Union occurred Monday night, when a vast crowed of Jews–including at least 15, 000 young boys and girls–gathered in a square in front of the Central Synagogue of Moscow to celebrate Simchat Torah, it was learned here today.

According to a highly reliable American who came back from Moscow today, the crowd in the square started gathering at about twilight, Monday, while inside the house of worship other Jews were preparing to observe Simchat Torah under the spiritual leadership of Chief Rabbi Yehuda Leib Levin. In a short time, the Jews gathered in the square numbered many thousands. By mid-evening, there were an estimated 15, 000 youths in the crowd.

As the sounds of the official celebration emanated from the synagogue, the crowd outside, led by the youths, started singing and dancing. Songs were rendered in Hebrew and Yiddish. The youths whirled in the square, dancing the horah and doing other traditional turns. The dancing and singing continued until midnight.

The American was told by Moscow Jews that the Simchat Torah demonstration was the largest and most enthusiastic witnessed in Moscow in many years. Russian Jews said that the demonstration constituted a mass answer on the part of Jews, especially the youth, to the Soviet Government’s efforts to wipe out virtually all traces of Jewish religions practice. The fact that many of the songs were in Hebrew, the Russians pointed out, indicated not only that the youths were declaring their friendship to Israel but showed also that, despite the fact that Hebrew is a forbidden language in the USSR, many Jewish youths know at least smatterings of the ancient Jewish tongue.

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