For the first time since the establishment of the United Nations the Soviet delegation here disseminated to the press today a statement on Jewish religious life in the Soviet Union. The statement did not touch upon the liquidation of Jewish cultural institutions in the USSR, nor did it make any mention of the fate of “missing” Jewish writers in Russia, or about the conditions of life in Biro-Bidjan which was proclaimed a Jewish autonomous region more than 25 years ago.
The statement which attracted attention in United Nations circles, was written by M. Rabinowitz who was not identified by the Soviet delegation, and whose name has never before appeared in public. The text of the statement reads:
“Citizens of the Jewish nationality are found among the inhabitants of cities and villages in different regions of the Soviet Union. Religious Jews attend prayers at the synagogues and observe the rituals prescribed by their religion. Synagogues are always well attended on Passover, Shevuoth, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succoth and other religious holidays and at Yizkor.
CLAIMS JEWISH RELIGION ENJOYS SAME RIGHTS AS RUSSIAN CHURCH
“In the Soviet Union, the Jewish faith enjoys the same rights as the Russian Orthodox Church and other churches and religions. Adherents of the Jewish faith in the USSR have their religious societies or communities. Synagogues or prayer buildings have been placed at the disposal of these communities by the local administrations and they have all the necessary facilities for prayers and for the performance of rituals. If a Jewish religious society has been organized in a district where no special building is available for a synagogue, the society may apply to the local authorities for a special building for a synagogue, or for a land allotment for the construction of a synagogue this allotment being provided free of charge.
“The religious society has the right to lease premises for a synagogue from the local authorities or from private owners. The only condition required for the organization of a Jewish, or any other religious society in the USSR is that there be no less than twenty members. The Jewish religious societies have their own shochtim, mikvahs etc. Before Passover the state designates special bakeries in places with a large Jewish religious population for baking matzohs for sale. Especially appointed religious observers are required to sanction the use of the matzohs as ritual bread. Those who desire may bake matzohs at home.
“Foreign visitors interested in the status of the Jewish religion in the USSR usually visit the synagogues. No one in the Soviet Union interferes with religious Jews in performance of the rituals prescribed by the dogmas and traditions of their faith. The right of Soviet citizens to profess any religion, or none at all is guaranteed by Soviet legislation.
“The Jewish religious societies in the Soviet Union have no central governing body. Nor was there any before the revolution. Each society conducts its activities independently under the leadership of an elected executive board, auditing committee and rabbi. In practice, however, the rabbis of neighboring synagogues, get together to discuss religious questions of general significance.
NAMES RABBIS OF LARGEST JEWISH COMMUNITIES IN USSR
“All the leaders of the Jewish religious communities in the Soviet Union, rabbis and religious Jews take part in the nationwide movement for peace. Prayers for peace are offered in the synagogue. In their sermons the rabbis urge the congregations to conduct an active struggle for peace. The rabbis of the biggest Jewish religious communities in the Soviet Union–Rabbis S.M. Schleifer of Moscow, Rabbi Panich of Kiev, Rabbi Diment of Odessa, Rabbi M. Masliansky of Riga, Haham K.V. Yeliashvili of Kutaisi. Rabbi Berger of Minsk, Rabbi I. Rabinovich of Vilna and Rabbi Vorkul of Kovno–published an appeal in the press urging Jews the world over to join with millions of people who protest against the threatened use of atomic and hydrogen weapons.
“Rabbi S. M. Schliefer of the Grand Synagogue of Moscow, attended the fifth USSR Peace Conference in Moscow, as the delegate of the Jewish religious communities of the capital,” the statement declares.
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.