Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Passover Starts Tonight; Marred by Soviet Ban on Matzoh Baking

April 8, 1963
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Jews throughout the world, including the United States, will usher in the Passover festival tomorrow night, mixing the traditional joy of the celebration of liberation from bondage in ancient Egypt with sadness over the fact that, in the Soviet Union, between 2,500,000 and 3,000,000 Jews have been denied by the USSR Government the elemental right of having matzoth.

In other areas of the world, however, thousands of Jewish immigrants and other needy Jews have been assured of matzoth and other Passover supplies, with the aid of funds and services provided by the United Jewish Appeal and its constituent agencies, according to Joseph Meyerhoff, general chairman of the UJA.

The Joint Distribution Committee has shipped 275,000 pounds of matzoth, matzoh meal, wine and other supplies to nine European countries, Mr. Meyerhoff was informed by Edward M. M. Warburg, chairman of the JDC. This year’s figure compared with 185,000 pounds of Passover supplies shipped in 1962, said Mr. Warburg.

Most of the increase, he said, went to France, where the Jewish population has been swelled in the last year by the influx of 120,000 Jewish refugees from Algeria and other North African countries. Other JDC Passover shipments went to Albania, Austria, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Yugoslavia.

In addition to the shipments to Europe, JDC made special Passover grants to 60,000 Jews on relief rolls in Algeria, Iran, Morocco and Tunisia, where Jews were enabled to purchase Passover supplies locally. In Poland, unlike the Soviet Union, the official Jewish community was permitted to bake matzoth. Equipment for the matzoh bakeries was supplied by the JDC. Matzoth were purchased inside Poland, by the JDC and distributed to about 7,000 Jews in that country.

Murray I. Gurfein, president of United Hias Service, the worldwide Jewish migration agency, emphasized in a Passover statement that “the current exodus of Jewish persons from danger zones in many parts of the world demonstrates that the story of our people’s survival through migration is as alive today as it was in Biblical times.” He revealed that more than 200,000 Jewish men, women and children fled their homelands last year. “For them,” he said, “the age-old festival of liberation holds special significance.


More than 100,000 Jewish men and women in the armed services of the United States, deployed in military, naval and air installations in the U. S. A. and abroad, as well as on the high seas, were enabled to celebrate Passover through the services of the National Jewish Welfare Board and its numerous volunteer aides. Special provisions were also made by JWB for dependents of Jewish servicemen around the world, as well as for Jewish patients in hospitals conducted by the Veterans Administration.

At many American installations, special Passover meals for the entire eight-day Passover festival had been arranged by the JWB. Chaplains of the Jewish faith and civilian rabbis especially recruited for the task had been flown to military installations and ships at sea through JWB arrangements with the U. S. Air Force and U. S. Navy. Passover supplies were also provided to Jewish servicemen and women en route or at various places around the world on secret missions.

On behalf of its constituent rabbinical and congregational organizations of Reform, Orthodox and Conservative Jewry in the United States, the Synagogue Council of America, through a special Passover message by its president, Rabbi Julius Mark, urged Jews to remember their brethren in the Soviet Union as they observe their sedorim this year. Pointing out that the USSR denies to its Jews not only matzoth but also prayer books, prayer shawls and other religious needs, Rabbi Mark stated: “The Nazi holocaust destroyed the body of the European Jew. Is the Soviet Union seeking to destroy his soul?”

The officially condoned anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union was also the theme of a Passover message by A. M. Sonnabend, president of the American Jewish Committee. Pointing to the ban against matzoth in the USSR, Mr. Sonnabend recalled also that all of Russia’s Jews are served only by about 60 aged rabbis, In addition, he noted, “thousands of synagogues in the USSR have been expropriated, and not a single synagogue has been returned, while construction or rededication of confiscated churches or mosques has been a normal phenomenon in the USSR.”


The current situation in the Middle East, with its threats of menace to Israel’s security, was emphasized in the Passover message by Dr. Emanuel Neumann, chairman of the American Section of the Jewish Agency for Israel. “Our rejoicing this year,” he stated, “is marred by recent developments in the Middle East, casting a pall on our festivities. The land of Israel and its people are threatened as never before. In the long years of struggle for Jewish national restoration in the ancient homeland, the Jewish people have been tried and tested in many a crisis, but never before was the threat so clear and the danger so grave as it is today.”

Rededication and recommitment to the tasks of service “to our brothers overseas” in the spirit of Passover and its commemoration of the exodus were emphasized in a special Passover message from Dr. Dewey D. Stone, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Inc., and chairman of the United Israel Appeal. “As we approach this Passover holiday, the new exodus, which has already brought over 1,000,000 Jews to Israel from areas of persecution and insecurity, continues at an accelerated pace,” he stressed.

The celebration of Passover this year and the link of the festival with American Jewry’s interest in Israel were stressed in a special statement by Abraham Feinberg, president of the Israel Bond Organization. Noting that Israel is about to rejoice over the 15th anniversary of its rebirth in 1948, Mr. Feinberg called the Bond effort “a modern covenant” with the Jewish State. “By our support of the Israel Bond drive during the past 12 years,” he stated, “we have strengthened the hands of the people of Israel in building the economic foundations of the country.

Rabbi Irving Miller, chairman of the American Zionist Council, said the message of this year’s Passover “comes to Jews and Zionists with its immemorial exhortation to redouble our vigilance in our constant struggle for the survival and freedom of our people. We must strengthen the bonds which bind us to Israel, center of Jewish spiritual life,” he said. “At the same time, we must not falter in our unshaken determination to combat the forces of assimilation in America, and preserve and strengthen our Jewish heritage in a free American society, rooted in the teachings of our Scriptures.


Rabbi Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, declared in a Passover message: “To the Jews of America, who enjoy the blessings of liberty, Passover is a summons to join in the struggles for human dignity, taking place in our own day. As we celebrate this festival, let us commit ourselves to the unfinished business of freedom–this precious gift that must be ever achieved, ever protected, ever renewed.”

Rededication to traditional principles of the Jewish religion, with special emphasis upon the Jewish youth, was called for in a Passover message issued by Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Now, he said, an opportunity presents itself “to return to our original and authentic heritage. There is a widespread interest among all, especially the youth, to know the full truth about Jewishness. Moreover, they demand to know the full truth. Experience has shown that, where Jewish youth comes in contact with authentic Torah-and-Precepts Jewishness, it is attracted to it.”

Passover messages were also issued by Dr. Max Nussbaum, president of the Zionist Organization of America; Mrs. Siegfried Kramarsky, national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America; Albert Schiff, president of the Jewish National Fund of America; Rabbi Mordecai Kirshblum, national president of the Religious Zionists of America; Mrs. Sidney Leff, national president of Pioneer Women; and Mrs. Joseph Willen, president of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Recommended from JTA