Jewish Seminars in the USSR

The KGB appears to be embarking on a new campaign aimed at Jewish scientists who have been refused permission to leave for Israel.

Over 20 scientists in Moscow have been warned that unless they find work quickly, they will be charged with parasitism. Most of them have organised and participated in the seminars held by Jewish scientists to keep themselves in touch with the latest developments in their fields of study.

Since the departure for Israel in 1972 of Professor Alexander Voronel, the seminars have been run by Professor Mark Azbel and Dr. Victor Brailovsky. In addition to strictly scientific subjects, recent topics have also included Judaism and Zionism. Among the lecturers has been Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, who addressed them during his visit at the end of last year.

Kiev follows suit

The driving force behind the specifically Jewish themes of the seminars is Ilya Essas, who was expelled from the Moscow Yeshiva because of his desire to go to Israel.

Jewish activists in other cities have also begun their own seminars. In Kiev, the KGB attempted to put a curb on such activities by surrounding the flat in which it was due to be held.

The KGB is clearly worried about the danger of anything which brings Jews together — whether it be scientific, cultural or merely social. They are particularly concerned at the effect it might have on young Jews who have not yet applied for permission to emigrate.

The recent crackdown on the samizdat educational journal. “Jews in the USSR”, is another manifestation of the KGB’s determination to stop anything which enables Soviet Jews to be in contact with one another.

In an effort to dupe the world into thinking that there is no Jewish problem, “official representatives” of the Jewish and scientific establishments are being sent on missions to the west. They include Professor Kholkov, of Moscow University, and Chief Rabbi Fishman, also of Moscow who has been in America.

In an appeal to the west, Azbel and other scientists warned about these emissaries. “While you are talking to them”, they wrote, “we are preparing for our sentences in prison. The more polite you are, the closer we are to prison. Our fate and the fate of our families is in your hands”.

Jewish Observer 4 June 1976

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