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February 07, 1969 - Image 18

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1969-02-07

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

18—Friday, February 7, 1969

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Boris Smolar's

'Between You
and Me

...

(Copyright 1969, JTA Inc.)

JEWISH CULTURE IN USSR: American Jewish tourists, when they
come to Moscow, make it their business to visit the Central Synagogue,
the only Jewish institution known to them. There is, however, another
Jewish institution in the Soviet capital, a cultural institution, in fact the
only Jewish cultural institution existing in the Soviet Union. This is—the
Yiddish-language monthly magazine, Sovietish Heimland, a literary
publication officially issued as the "Organ of the Association of Soviet
Writers."
The Association is not a Jewish body, but it has Jewish writers
among its members. It was chosen by the Soviet government as pub-
lisher of Sovietish Heimland because there is no Jewish group to whom
the government could have entrusted this task. The publication of this
only printed word in Yiddish was permitted in 1960, about 12 years after
the liquidation by the Stalin regime of the entire organized Jewish cul-
tural life in the country, when all Jewish cultural institutions were
liquidated and more than 220 Jewish writers and intellectuals were
executed or sent to their death in Siberia. In the interval, no Jewish
cultural life existed in the Soviet Union.
I sat in the office of Aron Vergelis, editor of the Sovietish Heimland,
a trusted Jewish Communist, and discussed with him the status of
Jewish culture in the USSR today. His magazine today is the only Jew-
ish publication in the Soviet Union. Why such limitation? Why has Jewish
cultural life still not been restored fully to what it had been prior to the
days of its brutal liquidation by Stalin? Why no public lectures in Yid-
dish? Why no courses in Yiddish for those who may want them? Why
are there no Yiddish textbooks? Why have these Yiddish state theaters,
which were liquidated by Stalin, not been reopened so many years after
Stalin's death? Why is Jewish culture not given the same treatment
which all other national minorities in the country enjoy?
*
*
YIDDISH LITERATURE: Vergelis tried to explain to me that there
is no interest in Yiddish culture today among Soviet Jews comparable
to what it was in the early years of the Communist regime, when there
were hundreds of Yiddish state schools, three daily Yiddish newspapers,
several Yiddish state theaters. He attributed the decrease in interest
partly to the fact that after the liquidaion by Stalin of Jewish cultural
life, there was a vacuum for many years during which Yiddish was
replaced by the Russian language even among Yiddish-speaking Jews.
He also claimed that Jewish youth wants to have its education in the
language of the country and is completely ignorant of Yiddish culture.
He told me that his magazine is printed in 25,000 copies and proudly
cited the names of a number of high Soviet Jewish officials who sub-
scribe to it. These, however, are all people above the age of 50. I
reminded him that the Soviet census of 1960 showed that 472,000 Soviet
Jewish citizens—more than 20 per cent of the recorded Jewish popula-
tion in the USSR in that census—listed Yiddish as their mother tongue.
"They are certainly entitled to more cultural attention than the publica-
tion of your literary monthly," I pointed out.
Sovietish Heimland, although being a Communist-oriented publica-
tion, seems to be drifting more and more toward the publishing of
novels and poetry which are not saturated with Communist propaganda.
Some of them are of high literary quality, written by a generation of
younger Jewish writers whom the magazine seeks to encourage. One
can also find in the magazine selected items about Jewish literary
events within the country and abroad.
Vergelis drew my attention to the fact that a Russian-Yiddish dic-
tionary is now in preparation by the Soviet Jewish philologist, Moshe
Shapiro, and will be published soon, and a Yiddish grammar book as
well. He pointed out that a`)out a half-dozen Yiddish books—by living
Soviet Jewish authors as well as by men killed by Stalin—have appeared
during the last year, and can be found in all Soviet bookstores. Four of
these books (by Z. Wendroff, Peretz Markish, Leib Kvitko, Moshe Teif)
I actually saw displayed prominently in two Moscow bookshops spe-
cializing in books written in national minority languages.
All this is, of course, a welcome sign showing literature in Yiddish
is beginning to find its way again in the Soviet Union. But this is not
enough, considering the number of Jews who declared Yiddish to be
their mother tongue in the 1960 census.
*
*
JEWISH THEATER: The greatest spiritual hunger felt among Jews
in the Soviet Union is for the Jewish theater and for Yiddish concerts.
Concerts by Jewish singers are given from time to time in Moscow,
Leningrad and other large cities, and they take place in the largest
halls. They are always crowded. Tickets to such concerts are always
sold out many days in advance. The programs of these concerts are
mostly of Jewish folksongs of the pre-revolutionary years. They strike
a nostalgic chord in the hearts of older Jews as well as a sentimental
chord among the younger Jews.
Jewish songs are so popular in the Soviet Union that Soviet opera
singers include them in their concert programs. They draw tremendous
applause. American singers, like Jan Peerce and others, when they give
concerts in Moscow, never fail to include a few popular Jewish songs,
to the delight of the audience which greets them with longlasting, en-
thusiastic applause. At such concerts, one can feel that the Jewish spirit
is still strongly alive among Jews in Russia, assimilated or not.
Jews in the Soviet Union are also hungry for performances in
Yiddish on the stage. There are a few wandering Jewish amateur
groups which travel from city to city, performing Jewish plays in a
primitive way. But there is no Jewish state theater like those that
existed in Moscow, Kiev and other large cities prior to Stalin's liquida-
tion of Jewish culture.
I was informed in Moscow that a group of 23 young Jewish artists
have been selected and are now being trained under the directorship of
Benjamin Schwartzer, a veteran Jewish actor, with a view to eventually
establish a permanent Jewish theater in the Soviet capital. The theater,
I was told, will be named either after Sholem Aleichem, the great Jew-
ish writer who died in New York, or after Solomon Mikhoels, the great
Soviet Yiddish actor who was killed by Stalin. However, this seems to
be a long-term project which could not materialize before a year or two

because of the length of the training the young actors require. Time
will show whether this project will be carried out and to what extent
the Soviet government will be interested in promoting it.

Veterans Charge De Gaulle Plotted

WASHINGTON—The Jewish War
Veterans of the United States char-
acterized Charles de Gaulle as
having "plotted to assist in the
destruction of Israel" as early as
three days before the Six Day War.
In a statement issued subsequent
to the Jewish War Veterans an-
nouncement that it was organizing
a nationwide boycott against
French goods and services, Na-
tional Commander Charles Feue-
reisen pointed out "that the French
government decided to withhold
delivery of Mirage planes ordered
by Israel on June 3, 1967, three
days before the Six-Day War, after
the closing of the Gulf of Aqaba,

Everybody is ignorant, only on
—Will Rogers
different subjects.

to Destroy Israel

after the United Nations emer-
gency forces had been withdrawn
at the insistence of the Egyptian
President, and before a shot was
fired."
According to COmmander Feue-
reisen, French officials have been

4:ag

.

got

.

falsely alleging that the plane em-
bargo was imposed after the com-
mencement of the June 1967 hostili-
ties.

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