A Reply to the Editor of Soviet Weekly

In his letter (Tribune June 13) Mr Efimov carefully evades or gives half-hearted explanations of the very concrete statistics quoted in our first letter (Tribune June 6).

For example, one wonders how the decrease in the number of synagogues in the Soviet Union from 450 in 1956 to 55 in 1969 can be accounted for by ‘the general decline of religion’? How for instance does Mr Efimov account for the fact that thousands of people attending the last Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana) service in the Moscow Central Synagogue such that the congregation overflowed into the side streets all round the synagogue?

this apparent state of affairs is even more apparent on the Festival of the Rejoicing of the Law (Simchat Torah) and has been so for a quite number of years past. The British United Press reported that there were around 30,000 people in and around the Moscow Central Synagogue on Simchat Torah (October 18 1965) and the figures have consistently increased over subsequent years.

Mr Efimov adopts the diversionary tactic of legitimising these discriminations against Jews by expressing them as a consequence of the practice of scientific atheism, saying that anti-Semitism is not encouraged by the Soviet authorities.

This is not the case. for example, in the book The Building of Communism and the Overcoming of the Vestiges of Religion (Science Publishing House, Moscow 1966), K. I. Yampolsky proclaims that ‘after the October victory the servants of the Judaist cult ¬†for a long-time continued anti-popular and counter-revolutionary activities’.

the book is endorsed and approved by the Soviet Academy of Social Sciences of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and by the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences. It goes on to state that ‘Judaistic prayers with their lying and hypocritical phraseology concerning ‘land of their forefathers’ and ‘the promised land’ are in contradiction to the natural love of the workers for their true Soviet fatherland, to the feelings of Soviet patriotism and to the principles of Soviet morality.’

Similar books are printed in abundance and can only encourage anti-Semitism and exacerbate existing prejudices.

As Mr Efimov is well aware, this is in absolute contradiction to the Soviet Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and of national expression. Such a dichotomy should not be permitted in a socialist state.

Tribune 20 June 1969

(with Jonathan Lewis)

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