PAGE 63
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Jews in the Soviet Union: 1941 to present

Assimilatory Pressures


An elderly Jew...



The 16th century synagogue...



The great synagogue of Leningrad...



Jews of Leningrad celebrating...



Dozens of Jewish graveyards...



Cover of one of the most notorious...



The synagogue of Kuba...


WITH THE DEATH OF STALIN, the "Black Years" of Soviet Jewry have come to an end, but his successor Khrushchev allows only piecemeal reforms. In 1957, for the first time since the revolution, a Jewish theological seminary (yeshiva) opens again in Moscow. A number of amateur drama and music groups are re-established, and in 1959 Yiddish book publishing resumes after 11 years.

During the years of Stalin's suppression of Yiddish culture, a few synagogues had been allowed to go on functioning. In the last years of Khrushchev's leadership, however, a campaign of militant atheism is launched against all religions, particularly affecting Jewish institutions. Jewish cemeteries are expropriated and destroyed, and more than fifty synagogues are closed. In dozens of books, authors with Jewish-sounding names denounce the Jewish religion. Only an estimated sixty synagogues remain open in 1965.

During the same period, hundreds of trials against "economic crimes" like embezzlement and speculation are reported in the Soviet media. Mostly, the accused bear distinctly Jewish names, reviving the familiar stereotype of the Jew as a swindler and speculator.

For Soviet Jews, all these experiences seem to point in one direction only: to assimilate completely and disappear as a distinct community. They are cut off from their language, and their culture and religion are under constant attack. Furthermore, after the wave of dismissals during the Stalin era, many fields of employment and advanced studies have become effectively closed for Jews.


Table: Number and percentage of Jewish students at Moscow institutes of higher learning, 1970 - 1980.

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