On Soviet anti-Semitism

K. Y. Rintoul (Tribune May 30) blindly defends anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union within the guise of the formation of a ‘non-deistic humanist society’. Certain facts seems to conflict with the tolerant doctrine of humanism.

Since 1956 nearly 80% of all synagogues in the Soviet Union have been closed down, usually following an intensive press campaign, humiliating and denigrating rabbis and worshippers, by accusing them of speculation and subversion.

There is no national organisation representing the Jewish minority in the Soviet Union, a right which is granted to other religious minorities such as the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Russian Orthodox churches. This prevents contact and communication with Jewish communities outside the Soviet Union , a restriction not placed upon other religious minorities.

Discrimination against the Jewish community is practised in the manufacture of religious articles. Phylacteries (tephilim) and prayer shawls (teleisim) are not allowed to be made, although icons, vestments and candles are readily manufactured to meet the religious requirements of other communities. The last hebrew edition of the Bible was printed in 1917. Since then only two editions of the hebrew prayer book have been printed, 3,000 in 1958 and 10,000 in 1968, to meet the requirements of a three million strong Soviet Jewish community. Other instances of discrimination against the Jews are all too numerous, such as the prohibition against the teaching of the religious language, Hebrew, the non-existence of seminaries for the training of rabbis and the closure of Jewish cemeteries.

the essence of humanism is surely tolerance of all religions and all creeds. The true humanist recognises each man’s right to find happiness in his own way, even if happiness for that man lies in the supply of matzos at Passover.

Tribune 6 June 1969

(with Jonathan Lewis)

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