LONDON (Feb. 8)
A letter signed by nine prominent members of the House of Commons, appealing to Premier Alexei N. Kosygin on behalf of the Jews in the Soviet Union, was delivered to the Soviet Embassy here today by a delegation headed by Sir Barnett Janner, Laborite, and Sir Ian Orr-Ewing, a Conservative. Mr. Kosygin is here now, having arrived Monday for an eight-day visit to Britain.
The letter drew Mr. Kosygin’s attention to the fact that 252 members of Parliament, of all parties, had signed a motion which expressed concern over “the continuing difficulties confronting the Jews in the USSR” and asked the British Government to “use its good offices to secure for the Jews the basic human rights afforded other Soviet citizens.”
The letter told Mr. Kosygin: “In writing to you on a subject which touches the hearts and minds of men and women everywhere who cherish the cause of human rights and freedom, we are mindful that we address the representative of the USSR, a country which a quarter of a century ago played a leading role in confronting and destroying on its territory the greatest menace to human freedom mankind has ever known.
“It is with regard to the free development of one of your recognized groups, the Jewish community, which we understand is estimated at some three million, that we feel called upon to convey our anxiety.”
SOURCES FRIENDLY TO USSR CITED AS BASIS FOR INFORMATION ON JEWS
The members of Parliament told Mr. Kosygin in their letter that their concern was based on reports of the condition of Soviet Jews received from individuals of repute, known for their friendship for the Soviet Union and the Soviet cause, and from Communist parties in various countries, including the United Kingdom.
While, according to the Soviet Constitution, they said, freedom of religious worship is recognized for all citizens, “however, it is a matter for regret that, according to the information received, many Soviet Jewish communities have been left either without synagogues altogether, or too few, and that they urgently need prayer books and other essential religious requirements.”
The letter urged that “this situation be remedied to allow the Jews in the Soviet Union to practice their religion as the Jewish people have done from time immemorial.”
The MP’s told Mr. Kosygin that Soviet Jews have not been able to establish contact with other Jewish communities abroad. They asked that Russian Jews “be enabled, in equality with other national religious groups in your great country, to institute central communal bodies to deal with their religious, cultural and educational needs, and to maintain association with similar Jewish bodies abroad engaged in preserving traditional Jewish life and identity.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews had attempted, since Mr. Kosygin’s plans for the British visit had been announced, to arrange to meet with him during the current visit. Thus far, the confrontation, requested through the USSR Embassy here, has not materialized on the grounds that the Russian Premier’s schedule is too full for such a session.