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September 25, 1959 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1959-09-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

A Remote Jewish Community

Dan Slobin Describes Visit in Two Georgian Synagogues

Editor's Note: This interest-
ing article is by Dan Slobin,
who was one of the guides
at the American Exhibition in
Moscow this summer. Slobin,
a senior at the University of
Michigan, was one of the 75
American youths chosen by
the State Department to be
guides because of their
knowledge of Russian and
their ability to greet and ad-
vise people. He is the son of
Mr. and Mrs. Norval Slobin
of 2974 Collingtvood.

* * *

By DAN SLOBIN
This summer's much-publi-
cized exchange of national
exhibitions between the United
States and the Soviet Union
gave me the opportunity to
take part in one of the most
important aspects of this in-
ternational contact—the per-
sonal contact between individ-
ual citizens of the two coun-
tries. As one of the guides at
the American National Exhibi-
tion in Moscow, I spoke to
many thousands of Soviet citi-
zens, both at the Exhibition
itself, and in other parts of
the country.
One of these parts is, I think,
especially interesting, just be-
cause it has received less pub-
licity than others. I am speak-
ing of Tbilisi (formerly Tiflis),
the capital of the Georgian
Republic of the Soviet Union.
Of specific interest to the
readers of this newspaper is,
of course, the Georgian Jewish
community.
After our Exhibition closed
in Moscow, two other guides
and I took the eight-hour
flight in a little Soviet plane
down to the Georgian capital.
We passed over the rich, re-
sort-laden coast of the Black
Sea, over the magnificent
snowy peaks of the. Caucasus,
and landed in the warm and
sunny city of Tbilisi—a pleas-
ant change from the cold
weather which had already
begun in the North.
Remembering that the ma-
jority of the students at the
Yeshiva in Moscow are Geor-
gians, we were interested in
paying a visit to the synagogue
in Tbilisi. Our Intourist guide
knew where it was, and she
took us to see it. We found a
simple, two-story, red brick
building, near the river. It
was placed on a small hill,
and its fence, ornamented by
Stars of David, identified it as
a building of Jews.
When the doorman heard
that we were from America,
he opened the gate to us.
Luckily, we all spoke Rus-
sian, for Yiddish would have
been of no help in communi-
cating with these Jews. Un-
like the rest of the Soviet
Union's European Jews, the
Georgians never went
through the lengthy Euro-
pean Jewish migrations. In-
stead, they came up long
ago to Tbilisi—this oldest of
cities in the USSR—directly
through Turkey and Persia.
Their ritual and Hebrew pro-
nunciation are thus sephar-
die.

The synagogue is large, and
spotlessly clean. It is freshly
painted and decorated with
rich folk-ornamentation. There
is a small meeting-hall on the
main floor, and a larger one
on the second floor. Both halls
house many bookcases, filled
with well-used tomes in He-
brew—both prayer books and
scholarly works of law and
commentary. We were told
that the synagogue is used
every day—three times a day;
that Sabbath services draw
two or three hundred worship-
pers; that the High Holydays
fill both halls with young and

old. The doorman proudly told
us: "We are all believers."
Unfortunately, we were not in
Tbilisi' on Friday night or Sat-
urday morning, and thus did
not have the opportunity to
see large numbers of "be-
lievers."
- It was late Saturday after-
noon, and our doorman told
us that there was still an-
other synagogue in Tbilisi—
a "European synagogue."
When we pressed him fur-
ther, we learned that this
was the house of worship
for the Yiddish-speaking
Jews, who had come to
Tbilisi in relatively recent
times from other parts of
the country. One of our
"Georgian Jews," (as op-
posed to "European Jews"),
in halting Yiddish, offered
to take us from the syna-
gogue to the "shul."
A short walk through nar-

row and winding back streets
brought us to a little build-
ing, surrounded closely by
houses on all sides. We en-
tered into the atmosphere of
an Eastern European shul, and
were immediately surrounded
by the familiar dialects of
Yiddish.
A dozen or so elderly men
were sitting around a table
at the back of the one-room,
one-story building. The empty
dishes and the stains on the
once-white tablecloth w ere
signs that the evening meal
had been fiished. The men
were involved in a deep and
complex Talmudic discussion,
and, not wishing to disturb,
we took a seat in an empty
pew and looked on. One man,
his voice rising and falling
with the well-known chant of
the argument, lectured his fel-
lows on points of ethics, draw-
ing examples from the Torah.

Americans Hope Khrushchev May
End Discrimination of USSR Jews

WASHINGTON, (J T A) —
Americans of all religions be-
lieving in religious freedom
share Jewish hopes that Soviet
Premier Khrushchev's s t a t e-
ment at the National Press Club
on the role by Soviet Jews in
the launching of the first rocket
to the moon "presages an end"
to anti-Jewish discrimination in
the Soviet Union, states an edi-
torial in the Washington Star.
"At the National Press Club
the other day, Premier Khrush-
chev denied, in effect, that the
Kremlin discriminates in any
way against the 3,000,000 Jews
of the USSR," the editorial
states: "In the Western world,
however, leading co-religionists
of these people have long had
in their hands abundant docu-
mentary evidence, showing that
Soviet policy has had a large
measure of domestic anti-Semit-

ism in it ever since the late
1940's.
"This policy, according to the
evidence, has consisted of num-
e r o u s restrictions debarring
Russia's Jews from many facil-
ities and activities, including
particularly activities involving
their culture and faith. Perhaps
Mr. Khrushchev's statement on
the subject presages an end to
such discrimination. That is the
hope, at any rate, of world
Jewry, and it is a hope shared
by all peoples who believe in
religious freedom," the Wash-
ington Post said.

The others nodded, interjecting
remarks from time to time.
One by one, the men drifted
over curiously to us. "Who are
you?" "Where are you from?"
"Why do you know how to
speak Yiddish?" And, our cu-
riosity also aroused, we ques-
tioned back. "What are your
relations with the Georgian
Jews?" "Oh, we don't see
much of them. They do every-
thing differently. We have our
own shul here. But we're all
Jews." "Do your young people
come here to the shul?" "Not
very often. Usually only on
Rosh Hashanah and Yom . Kip-
pur."
And so the conversation
went on. Soon it was dark,
and soon the voice of the
scholar stopped. The men
stood up, and filed out into
the narrow streets, each go-
ing his own way. We stopped
for a few minutes to finish
our conversation, and parted
with the universal "Sholom
Aleichem," and the Yiddish
"Seit gezunt." An interesting
contact with some little-known
Jews.

Salmon Takes New Post

JERUSALEM, (JTA) — Kat-
riel Salmon, 45, former Israeli
military attache in Washington,
has been named Israel Minister
to the Union of South Africa.

Protestant Attempts
at Converting Jews
May Be 'Embarrassing'

CHICAGO — Protestant ef-
forts to evangelize the Jews
will prove an embarrassment
to both Jews and Christians
and may even jeopardize the
image of America before the
world, a rabbinic scholar de-
clares in an article appearing
in Christian Century, undenom-
inational Protestant weekly pub-
lished here.
Discussing what Jews think
about recently intensified ef-
forts among some Protestant
groups to convert them, Rabbi
Arthur Hertzberg, of Engle-
wood, N. J., writes in his ar-
ticle, "To Believe — and to
Wait," that "the possibility of
Jewish - Christian cooperation
and symbiosis, which is a chief
glory of America, will be les-
sened if not destroyed" by an
aggressive Christian mission to
evangelize the Jews."
He adds that "a revived Chris-
tian evangelism reasserting its
`Great Commission' to convert,
and hence to dissolve, all other
faiths will not only embarrass
America before the world; it
will undercut our foreign policy
and lend new fuel to the ap-
peal of communism in the East."

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THE JEWISH NATIONAL FUND

Heartily Greets the Entire Community With Best Wishes for A

VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR

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MRS. GEORGE LERNER

President

Pres., Ladies Auxiliary

MORRIS J. BRANDWINE

MRS. MORRIS KUTINSKY

Chairman, JNF Foundation

Chairman, Blue-White Box

PERCY KAPLAN

Executive Director

ITS BOX CLEARANCE TIME

Your JEWISH NATIONAL FUND

BLUE & WHITE
BOX

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NOT HAVE A BOX—

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