Georgetown forum; Soviet Jews' plight
The plight of Soviet Jewry. The topic for the eleven hundred and sixty ninth consecutive broadcast of the Georgetown University radio forum. Another in a series of educational and informative programs from Washington D.C.. The Georgetown forum was founded in 1946. This is Wallace Manning speaking to you by transcription from the Raymond Rice studio on the campus of Georgetown University historic Jesuit seat of learning in the nation's capital. Today's discussion Mobi the plight of Soviet Jewry. The participants are Dr Isaac Frank the executive vice president of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington and professorial a lecturer in philosophy and sociology at the American University. Mr. Early on buck off contributing editor for World Communist affairs Newsweek magazine. And Mr. Rowan are
heggs dad editor of Liberty Magazine a Seventh Day Adventist publications best specializing in church state issues and a visitor last year to the Soviet Union along with Dr. Frank. Reports continue to reach the United States that Judaism Jewish culture and the Jewish people in the Soviet Union still experience special oppression and discrimination at the hands of the Soviet government. The recent observance of Passover the holiday which commemorates the liberation of the Jews in ancient Egypt makes the subject of Jewish oppression in the Soviet Union especially appropriate today. The Georgetown University forum has devoted some programs to the plight of Soviet Jewry in past years. Today we want to look at the problem again and try to discover whether the treatment of the 3 million Jews in the Soviet Union has undergone any changes recently
whether in how the Soviet government's treatment of the Jews deposition that of other religious groups. What some of the factors are that explain the USSR is policies and practices toward its Jewish population. And finally what can be done about it. So we're going to begin by asking Dr. Frank has there been a recent major change in attitude in the Soviet government toward its Jewish so this started like. There has not been any change in the of the special discriminatory treatment directed against the Jewish population. The Soviet Union continues both as a religious group and as one of the nationality groups in the Soviet Union. And the sense of fear and care on which Jews in the Soviet Union LIVE continues to be a melancholy and disgusting fact. However there are some very minute
evidences that the Soviet Union is not totally impervious to or indifferent to world opinion and the expression of our moral outrage from I would side the Soviet Union. And in response to the many protests which American Jews and non-Jews and Jews and non-Jews in other parts of the world. In response to those protests certain minor things have happened which I think support my contention that the Soviet Union does respond to world pressures and let me five or six very small examples one until three years ago for several years. The Jews of the Soviet Union did not have permission to bake the unleavened bread for Passover and for the Passover as ago they had to martyr for the first time and have continued to have marks on the past few years. And when I was
in the Soviet Union last year one of the man or two of the men said to me if it hadn't been for your protests we wouldn't have had any matzah. Secondly there had not been any Jewish prayer books and Hebrew prayer books printed in the Soviet Union for over 40 years. The government has made a concession now and says that it is printing ten thousand prayer books. I Hot know of the existence of only four. But they say they have. They are permitting the printing of ten thousand three. The government so government has permitted a shipment of two hundred prayer shawls by a rabbi in New Jersey to the rabbi in Moscow. Whether they're permitted the use of these prayer shawls me don't know but for the first time they've committed their importation. A story in The Times about two or three weeks ago told of the government's permission to a young student who wanted to study to become a
rabbi. The permission for him to go to Hungary to study in a rabbinical seminary this is the first time this has happened. Next they permitted Rabbi Levine of Moscow to come to the United States for a visit. This is the first time they permitted a representative of the Jewish community of the Soviet Union to visit outside of the country. And finally if we talk now about cultural rather than religious matters the one publication and the Yiddish language in the Soviet Union is a literary publication called Soviet ashame land and where I was until two years ago it was published in only ten thousand copies and published four times a year. The pressure of ruled opinion they have increased the publication of that out to six times a year and a total number of 25000. Now these are microscopic only small
improvements. Nonetheless I think there they are of importance because I think they show a response of this on the part of the Soviet Union to world pressure and public opinion. Mr. Baxter did you to observe these changes. Well actually the only Jew in the Soviet Union that I had a much of a talk with was Isaac Frank. I met him in Moscow unexpectedly and I had not seen him for several years. Before that you'll find that Jews in the Soviet Union. Are very reluctant to speak to Gentile foreigners. Occasionally they will speak to a Jewish tourist but then only guardedly. Yes they're very reluctant to attack harass on pain establish your credibility right. I think the persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union is part of a larger communist antipathy toward all things religious. You'll find all religious groups accused of anti scientific ideas about nature and society
accused of persecuting the philosophers and preserving the superstition of being enemies of the revolutionary movement obstructing education in the spirit of friendship between people. I think however if the Jews suffered uniquely it would likely be because of two factors. Number one they are identified not only as a religion but as a nationality and thus identified in the Soviet mind prominently with the state of Israel which in turn is considered to be a American puppet regime are identified I should say with America prominently in world policy and secondly because of the Sabbath these two issues I think might make their circumstances a bit more difficult then some Christian groups at least just a book off. Do you consider that the Jews suffer a special oppression in Russia. There's no question in my dept and and my own experience in the
Soviet Union that I was a Soviet Jew points to a break in their treatment toward the Jews today and not see Nazi Stalin pact of 39 then as far as I can see what's going on in Russia today this tradition is still going on. I attribute among other things to a certain extent and dedication of more liberal ideas seem Stalin was becoming more reactionary. There was less room for Jews in the official party apparatus in government and less influence was allowed to the Jews and the Soviet culture. However I also want to support the idea that lately have been some minor changes I observe them very much in the dealings
with Soviet diplomats newsman visitors economic personalities. They are very much here we're all for home much anti-Semitism hurts them abroad hurts them not only in the world communist movement specially in Italy and France were Jews are very prominent in the intellectual community and in the Communist movement. But it hurts him all over the world. And because of that they're making there at least they are pressing Moscow as much as they could to to curb certain very visible aspects of anti-Semitism. Dr. Frank Yes you mentioned the scholarly world the academic world. The one of the disturbing bits of information we've been getting is that there is an increasing amount of
discrimination against Jews in institutions of higher learning in the academic world among professorships among professors. And I had occasion to speak to two people from the academic world while I was at the Soviet Union and when I asked the question in a restaurant where conceivably they could have been overheard. Is there any discrimination against Jews in the academic world. The answer was a correct one saying one shouldn't ask such questions but when the next day we ask the same question of the same man during a work in a park where we couldn't possibly have been overheard and the question was if anyone reported of a student in the in the graduate student reporter that he experienced down to Semitism will he be telling the truth and his answer was 95 percent of the time he would be telling the truth. Dr. Frank you were stressing and I quickly saw the anti
Semitism. I said earlier that I believe that persecution of Jews is simply part of a larger picture of communist antipathy toward all things religious. I know for example of some 200 plus Baptists who are presently in prison in the Soviet Union among 70 AD minister are both laymen and some for a pastors in prison for instructing children simply for instructing children in precepts of religion. To your knowledge are there any Jews currently in prison for instructing children or for any other cause. I don't know that there are Jews in prison for instructing children there are Jews imprisoned for all kinds of allegations such as allegedly economic crimes and so on. We know that there have been these trials in which Jews were picked out prominently to be accused of academic trials. Now I've no I'm sorry of
economic crimes. However the other point Mr X that I think it is important for people to know two things one the cardinal point that you've made namely that the situation of religions in the Soviet Union is a rough situation. The Soviet government has a consistent policy of discrimination against have cut certain kinds of persecution of religious groups and emphasizing the problem of the Jews I do not mean nor does the American Jewish community mean to underestimate the plight of other religious groups. However the second point that we have to make is that for whatever the reasons are the Jewish group has been picked out for special kinds of discriminations and has been denied certain rights which to some extent other religious groups do have other
religious groups some do have seminaries where they can train their or their clergymen I under I I thought they did. And Jews are not permitted to have seminaries and other religious groups some have been permitted to print their Bibles. There's been no Hebrew Bible printed in 50 years. Prayer box implements. The ritual objects etc.. No I'm I'm certainly not attempting to diminish the plight of Jews it's as I said a problem with anyone having religion in the Soviet Union is no picnic let's put it that way. But the last printing of the Bible in the Soviet Union was back in the mid 1980s. If you attend a church you'll find that most are are not don't do not even have Bibles. When I was in Moscow at the time you were a minister flew in from over a thousand miles away it asking if we might not have one Bible even in English that we
could give him that he would learn English to read it. Incidentally this led to a very interesting confrontation in the Institute of Soviet American friendship which I think Dr. Bell called has been renamed recently but that's the name I know it by. Lawyer a number of professors from the University of Moscow a number of American graduate students there and Russian graduate students met with members about your state study commission and I asked if it was not possible to purchase Bibles in the Soviet Union and I was assured by the group that it was possible I then pulled out my American travelers checks like $100 travellers check on the table and said I will write this out for anyone who can purchase a Bible in Moscow or anywhere in the Soviet Union which immediately turned the conversation to juvenile delinquency. And I'm sure I was promptly identified with that aberration. But I want to correct that. I mean in the post-war period I don't know how many copies were sold in Russia but die have post war
copy of the Russian Bible translated into a very modern Russian language and it's had a brain and it's a genius job. The church has done and I have read catchwords this at the Russian church and most of the Russian officer yes translated. World in the New Testament and one edition. It's a very modern Russian language and I'm sure circulates over Rush I don't know where you can buy it but it was printed and it was sold and I have a copy still with me. Let me make one other point if I may. I said I also wanted to read to to argue with the other point. It's true that the Soviet Union by nature of its ideology is anti religious. There's no question about it and therefore the religions are persecuted big question is with the Jews. It's a
combination of religious and national persecution and I will live straight to your foolishness. A Communist Party member dead would go to church and be wedded in the church or will baptize his child who would get a very minor representation from the party self for doing so and he will not be kicked out of the party. However Jew dead would be court practicing Jewish religion. Suppose he on the high holiday here at Cannes a secret prayer group and cry would holler he would be kicked out of the party because it would be held against him as a day rag challenge to his party started. He would be accused of betraying the ideology and so far and this goes across the board. I singled out these incidents just to point out that for instance a lot of
communist party members today seeking some kind of a security in their marriages do get secretly read it in the church ceremony they baptize their children I mean comes from own members and means to day baptize their children because they want some kind of a tradition to restore tradition and security in the party in the government deals with these cases very mild in the situation. It's a very serious affair on the menu for a mile. BOBKOFF like as you say a slight reprimand as I say would meet and would point out to him and will try to argue with him and educate him that by doing so he goes against the ideology against the quivers of communism and they would rather try to educate him then to punish him. There
are very few cases probably in the last 20 years where party member would be kicked out because of his religious devotion so his wife and before would have if the RIF keeps an icon they know a party member who lives keeps an icon in the corner. That was enough for him to be kicked out of the party. Now just grand has changed. I can see today it could be founded Communist Party members hard but on the other hand that you were not did you. Let me give you an illustration of what Mr. Barker was saying in one of the cities which I visited and I will not say which city for obvious reasons. How do a long conversation with a man who performs the ritual circumcisions of children in Jewish religion. He told me that. 95 percent of Jewish boys born in that city are not circumcised. Why
people are in terror of doing that because if it became known they'd circumcise their children they would lose their jobs. Moreover he said he had performed recently circumcisions on the boys of two highly placed professors. And this was done in the greatest of secrecy because they they were certain that if it became known that their children had been been circumcised they were sure they would have been fired from their jobs in the university. Of course there's a decided parallel here in the circumstances of Christians with whom I'm acquainted there whose children have been baptized baptisms are not held publicly and in some areas services are not held publicly but they're held out in the forests or in the wheat fields or somewhere else. It's no picnic. At the very least it's regarded as one who is religious and a Soviet Union is regarded to separate picture
waiting superstition and lacking a certain necessary educational attributes and intellectual attributes I might add. Let me add let me try to develop the other point if I may Mr founding. We said all three of us that of the Jews in the Soviet Union are classified in two ways as a religion and as a nationality. Now the point we are making is off the disk. The special discrimination against Jews is a two way discrimination. You take any of the off you get how many nationalities are on the Soviets and I mean a hundred a hundred and. Eight nationalities you take any of these other nationalities. They have the right to conduct school in their own native languages to have cultural centers to house theater to have libraries to publish newspapers to publish magazines to publish books. They take the Jewish group. They are not permitted to have secular schools now not religious schools.
They are not permitted to have secular schools in their own language and you dish. They are not permitted to have secular schools even in Russia and rather they could teach Jewish history or Jewish culture. They are not permitted the publication of any daily or weekly newspaper and there are 3 million Jews in the Soviet Union and at least half a million gave you dish as their mother tongue. They are not permitted to have any cultural centers except for the Soviet to shame launder which I referred before. There is no other literary publication and you dish and only about five or six books have been published a new dish in the past 10 or 12 years so that they are repeat the discrimination is a two way discrimination religious and cultural and in addition to that the atmosphere of fear and repression under which the Jewish community lives. You also mentioned economics. I know I judge from what you and the other panel members say that that there are
really three factors here which basically are responsible for the Soviet government attitude that is there are economic accusations there. This matter of nationality and what was a third point the religion and the religion. And in that sort of inherent in the in the national threat that they feel is it not their religion. Well as I think both Mr. Hemstead and most of all of said the situation of the Jews issues complicated made more difficult by virtue of the fact that they have this dual classification and under this dual classification they are under both of these parts of the classification they are discriminated against. Police factors being what they are and as you gentlemen say your view you attribute them to the Soviet government's attitude in the remaining four minutes of your discussion. What do you think can be done to remedy the situation.
First of all I think that Western countries should feel their responsibility of increasing their protests because I think this is the very immediate hope for the Western world speaks about this problem. DM or it gets home in and forces the government to make some adjustments. The second I feel is that due to certain interest today of the Soviet Union in negotiating let's say with the United States there seeking better ties because of the Chinese situation so for the pressure to point out that this is one of the aspects that the Soviet Union must Osorio Justin in their desire to win and trust in the western world. I would add are two factors that might influence the circumstances and give
hope. Number one our progress of education in the Soviet Union has made some of the more primitive anti religious propaganda very unpalatable. As Mr. vocab indicated different attack on religions and particularly the Jews in flames world opinion. There's one other factor I think the Russians are finding out that there is quite a rise of unrecorded now used churches and sects within the Soviet Union and there these are generally very militant. I think the government disc concluding that it might be wiser to work with the recognized religious groups in the Soviet Union rather than to have these proliferating sometimes rabid displeasure groups and up these factors might be tossed into the equation. And we might conclude that there is a little hope for amelioration of the circumstances of religionists in the Soviet Union but I frankly I would add my emphasis on the importance of the protests and protests in
America and protests on the part of Jews and on the part of non-Jews. The fact is that these little concessions have been made. There is a second fact namely that in the struggle within the Soviet Union and in the communist world between the liberal forces and the old the reactionary Stalinist forces the liberal first US have begun seeing the oppression of religion in general of the Jews in particular as something which is really Stalinist in character. Thirdly the Jews in the soviet you need encouragement to continue with hearing to whatever they can at here too. And the fact that our protests here are known to the Jews in the Soviet Union and they find out about it through listening to the Voice of America they found find out about it through listening to the broadcasts from other countries including Israel and the most hopeful
and remarkable phenomenon is the young Jews the young generation of boys and girls of 16 19 20 without ever having had a Jewish religious or cultural education. Somehow gravitating back to a sense of identification as a result of their hearing the protests in other parts of the world and the courage that they get out of this in pursuing their sense of religious and national identification. Do you feel Dr. Frank also that other young people those who are not Jewish also have us developing sympathy. Well yes to the extent to which youth is part of the liberal ideas in the Soviet Union I think it is to that extent the non-Jewish youth of the Soviet Union also sees an end to Semitism and a reactionary Stalinist element against which they would want to rebel. Thank you very much gentlemen for your discussion. The plight of Soviet Jewry.
I thanks to Dr. Isaac franc executive vice president of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington professorial a lecturer in philosophy and sociology at the American University. To Mr. Leon Berkoff contributing editor for world coming Mr. Ferrers Newsweek magazine and to Mr. Rowland our Hickstead editor of Liberty Magazine a Seventh Day Adventist publications specializing in church state issues. If you have attended the weekly discussion program the Georgetown University Radio Ferrum broadcast of which was transcribed in the Raymond Rice studio on the campus of historic Georgetown University in Washington D.C.. Next week you will hear discussed the world of money outlook a panel at that time will consist of the Honorable Pierre Paul Schweitzer the managing director of the International Monetary Fund Mr. Charles a surround me. Foreign affairs editor of Kiplinger's publications. And Mr. L.A. Jennings chairman of the board and chief executive
- Georgetown forum
- Soviet Jews' plight
- Producing Organization
- Georgetown University
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program features Dr. Isaac Franck, executive vice president, Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington; Leon Volkoff, Newsweek; Roland R. Higstaff, editor, Liberty Magazine, a Seventh Day Adventist publication.
- Other Description
- Moderated by Wallace Fanning, this series presents a panel of guests discussing a variety of topics. The radio series launched in 1946. It also later aired on WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C. These programs aired 1968-69.
- Broadcast Date
- Global Affairs
- Media type
Guest: Franck, Isaac
Guest: Volkoff, Leon
Guest: Higstaff, Roland
Moderator: Fanning, Wallace
Producing Organization: Georgetown University
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-51-656 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Georgetown forum; Soviet Jews' plight,” 1969-04-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 23, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qj77z00b.
- MLA: “Georgetown forum; Soviet Jews' plight.” 1969-04-21. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 23, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qj77z00b>.
- APA: Georgetown forum; Soviet Jews' plight. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qj77z00b