Soviet Jews Mark New Year With Jubilation--and Fear
Hopes for democracy mixed with fears of renewed anti-Semitism as Soviet Jews celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, in their transformed country Sunday night.
About 3,000 Jews crowded Moscow’s main synagogue to usher in year 5752, according to the traditional Jewish count. They included guests from the United States and Israel and from Azerbaijan and Georgia, Soviet republics where Jews have been persecuted.
Many spent the service singing traditional Jewish songs outside the packed, three-tier synagogue. Jubilation over Soviet reforms was tempered with doubt over the future.
“The present enthusiasm will give way to a new wave of anti-Semitism,” said Anna Margolina, 28. “The economic situation is getting worse from day to day, and history shows the Jews are always blamed. So I have decided to leave.” She said that she and her husband, Alexander, will go to the United States.
“There is no future for the Jews here,” said another celebrant, Bella Kosyaskaya, 67.
On a bench outside the prayer hall, 83-year-old Marcus Skolnik leaned on a cane and shook his head sadly.
“I have been coming here for years, and every week there are fewer and fewer of us. Everyone is leaving.” He said those who remain “are fighting each other to improve their lot.”
Soviet emigration to the United States and most other Western countries, for both Jews and non-Jews, is limited by strictly enforced quotas.
Since mid-1989, more than 300,000 Soviets have emigrated to Israel, which grants all Jews and their family members the right to automatic citizenship.