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Council for Judaism Confirms Bid to Moscow Rabbi but Denies Talking with Soviets

April 17, 1968
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The American Council for Judaism confirmed today that it had invited Chief Rabbi Yehuda Leib Levin of Moscow to participate in the 25th anniversary conference of the anti-Zionist organization in May, but it denied in a statement, that there had been any negotiations between It “and any representative of the Soviet Union pertaining to the Invitation to Rabbi Levin or to any other matter.”

The Council’s statement followed the disclosure by the Soviet Embassy in Washington that arrangements had been completed for the visit here of a “Jewish religious delegation.” designated by the Soviet Government in cooperation with the Council. The Embassy did not identify the members of the delegation except to state that one of the members would be a rabbi. The Embassy said the delegation would arrive in May and that forums had been arranged by the Council in cooperation with the Embassy.

The Council said that in inviting Rabbi Levin, it was “motivated by a deep concern about the welfare and security of Soviet Jews and about their unrestricted right to practice their religion. This concern,” it asserted, “is shared with our fellow-Jews and is consonant with the desire to hear from the acknowledged Jewish religious leader of the Soviet Union.”

The Council said that Rabbi Levin had accepted its Invitation on April 5 but asked that “because of recent surgery the invitation be extended to associates of his who would come in his stead.” The statement added that the Council had, earlier, postponed Its conference and “is now hoped that an improvement in Rabbi Levin’s health will enable him to attend on that new date. A Council spokesman told JTA the new date would be in the Fall. The Soviet Embassy, however, made It clear today that it expected the delegation in May, as previously announced.

The Council for Judaism said that in replying to Rabbi Levin, It had asked for the identity of the associates he had proposed. It declared that “at this date, there is no understanding or agreement with respect to the appearance in the United States under the auspices of the American Council for Judaism of any Jewish representative from the Soviet Union other than Rabbi Levin.”


Rabbi Israel Miller, chairman of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, in a comment on the Soviet Embassy disclosure said it “can only be deemed a cynical attempt to perpetrate a grotesque hoax on the American public.”

He noted that “responsible American Jewish bodies have repeatedly petitioned and implored the Soviet Government to permit Russian Jewish representatives to visit the United States and establish relationships with Jews here” and cited extension of Invitations from rabbinical groups.

He said that “we are necessarily pessimistic about the opportunity for genuine and meaningful dialogue with the Soviet Jewish delegation that would be provided by a visit on invitation by the American Council for Judaism, The auspices and the circumstances surrounding such a visit,” he added, “suggest we may expect little more than a repetition of the standard Soviet line, with small chance for a break through to the kind of people-to-people confrontation with the Jews of Russia for which American Jews long have yearned.”

The Conference chairman charged that the American Council for Judaism “has repeatedly parrotted the Soviet propaganda line that the root cause of conflict and tension in the Middle East is the international Zionist conspiracy which we know today to be a euphemism for anti-Semitism; and has been an apologist for the USSR’s policy of depriving Soviet Jews of the same constitutionally guaranteed cultural and religious rights which are granted to all other recognized religions and nationality groups in the USSR.”

Rabbi Miller concluded by expressing regret that “what we believe to be the first permission granted since the Russian Revolution for Soviet Jewish religious representatives to visit American Jewry should be in association with a group whose policies have been publicly and consistently repudiated by the over whelming majority of the American Jewish community.”


A statement issued for the Jewish Agency-American Section, by Mrs. Rose Halprin, its chairman, described the announced visit as “a clumsy propagandistic device” and described the arrangement as “an alliance of the great Russian bear with an Insignificant American mouse.” It described the Council for Judaism as “a fringe American group of some 20 or so thousand members that is completely outside the American-Jewish organizational structure” and which, it said, “is almost unanimously discredited in American Jewish circles.”

That the Soviet Government had to “seek an alliance with the Council of Judaism,” the statement said, “is an Indication of the desperation of Soviet propaganda in trying to discredit charges that Russian Jewry is denied the right to live as Jews, the only ethnic group in Russia that suffers this discrimination.”

The Soviet regime can indicate the sincerity of its desire to establish contacts between Russian Jewish religious leadership and its American counterpart only by dealing “openly and above board” with such organizations as the Synagogue Council of America, which represents all branches of American Jewish religious life, the statement concluded.

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