Devout, courageous Jews are stimulating a major revival of concern for religious liberty.

The immediate focus is the plight of Jews in the Soviet Union. Their activities have been restricted for many years, but the issue has been coming to a head only recently. Many want to emigrate to Israel. Soviet authorities have frowned on this but have let a few go.

The latest event interpreted by Jews as repression was a trial in May of four Jews in Riga, Latvia. They were found guilty of anti-Soviet activity and sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to three years.

The trial provided Exhibit A for a crusading Jewess, Mrs. Rivka Alexandrovich, 47, who has crisscrossed the Western world in recent weeks to call public attention to Soviet persecution of those who take their Judaism seriously. Her 23-year-old daughter was one of the Riga defendants. “The only crime is that Ruth is Jewish,” said Mrs. Alexandrovich, who taught English in Riga for twenty-five years and was allowed to emigrate to Israel with an 18-year-old son only a few weeks ago. Ruth, a nurse, has been in jail since last October. At the trial in May she was given a one-year term. Her father has remained behind with her in the Soviet Union.

Pleas like those of Mrs. Alexandrovich are arousing the interest of many who heretofore have thought that religious persecution existed almost exclusively in the minds of right-wing nuts. They are also putting ecumenists on the spot, obliging them to speak up on the denial of religious freedom in many Communist countries. Thus far, the ecumenical movement has been promoting the kind of dialogue with Communists that sweeps such unpleasantries under diplomatic rugs.

Mrs. Alexandrovich has appeared on a number of television shows in the United States and has held press conferences and interviews arranged by the American Jewish Committee. She made an impassioned speech to the United Presbyterian General Assembly in Rochester, New York. Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee, called her “the latest missionary of mercy to your consciences.” He said the Western world has been lulled into a feeling of security regarding religion in the Soviet Union.

In a meeting with churchmen in New York, Mrs. Alexandrovich said there are still about forty Jews awaiting trial in the Soviet Union, including nine in Kishinve, Moldavia. But she made it clear that Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, and even Muslims also were under attack in the Soviet Union. When Tanenbaum remarked that the plight of the Baptists was just as bad as that of the Jews, she broke in, saying, “Terrible, terrible.” She said she had attended the trial of a Baptist peasant and marveled at his calmness. “I’ll never forget his speech,” she said. “He told the judge, ‘I’m not afraid of you. You are not a judge. I have only one Judge.’ ”

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She said that the prison camp to which her daughter was being sent had eighteen women prisoners, and that most of them were Baptists.

She described as “an evil position” the stance taken by churchmen who say they avoid speaking out against specific acts of religious persecution because of fear of reprisals against those involved. “It is high time to go ahead and speak,” she declared. “Each step is a drop in the cup, and someday it will overflow.”

There is a remarkable renewal of interest in religion in the Soviet Union, according to Mrs. Alexandrovich, especially among young people. “One thousand Jews have become Christians,” she says, “and some Christians are becoming Jews.” She contends that “there is no underground church. That is a term of the KGB.”

Cuban Jews: Trial By Change

Jews in Cuba live normal lives and are not persecuted as those in coercive Russia. Their synagogues are open, and the Castro government pays the bus fares for their children to attend a Jewish nationalized school.

These startling observations come not from the lips of a government propagandist but from American rabbi Everitt Gendler, who recently returned from a see-it-yourself tour of Cuba.

In a report released privately in Geneva last month, Gendler said there is among Cuban Jews “a vitality of spirit, a dedication to the welfare and education of youth, and a cooperation and sharing which I had felt elsewhere only in Israel.”

Rabbi Gendler, who has been at the Jewish center in Princeton, New Jersey, says the bold Cuban experiment has not hindered the five Jewish congregations where worship is held in Spanish, English, and Hebrew. In one of these—Temple Beth Israel, situated in a fine old converted mansion on the broad, palm-lined boulevard of Velado—men and women sit together.

Before the Castro regime took over there were 10,000 Jews in Cuba. Rough estimates now place the figure at only 1,000. Most of the rest fled to the United States.

The Castro government has continued to permit the Jews to have kosher meat despite severe rationing. And the teaching of Hebrew and of Jewish history and culture is encouraged. After speaking with Jews of varying outlooks—some sympathetic to the revolution, some neutral, and some hostile—Gendler said: “I found unanimous agreement on one front. The government has been beyond criticism in its respect and consideration of Jewish religious needs.”

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Cuba has full diplomatic relations with Israel. This leads to the ironic situation of a U.S.-supported middle nation helping a Communist country that is at great odds with the same U. S. government. Gendler, who is the first of his faith in the United States to enter Cuba since 1963, says that while there is no overt hostility from the government, a “deteriorating world political situation is likely to harden some of the present Cuban flexibilities.”


Anxiety In Israel

Eight years ago Nes Ammim, Israel’s only Christian settlement, almost lost its bid for existence, largely because of the opposition of nearby Nahariya’s chief rabbi, Dr. Aharon Keller. Rabbi Keller was outspoken in his fear that the Christian settlement would become a nest of missionary activity in Galilee. This has not happened, and today Rabbi Keller’s mind is changing. He is on the way to becoming a friend of Nes Ammim.

Recently Keller raised the red flag again when it-came to his attention that a group of Moravian Brethren from Germany was planning to buy the Narko Hotel in Nahariya and establish a rest home for Israelis who suffered under the Nazi persecutions. Rabbi Keller persuaded the owner to cancel the sale on the grounds that the group consisted of Christian activists.

A second missionary “scare” broke over the sleepy little town of Metulla following reported efforts of a German Baptist group to purchase Hotel Arazim and another unnamed German Christian body to purchase Hotel Hamavree. Influential voices, including that of a rabbi, urged government action to prevent such expansion of missionary activities.

Some Christians in Israel regard it as “sheer callousness” for Christian groups—especially from Germany where Jews suffered in an unprecedented way—to seek entree to Israel. They see other preferable ways of “helping the Jews.” On the other hand, Israel is thought by some to damage its image abroad when rabbis react excitedly to the presence of foreign Christian groups in Israel.

As one observer put it, “Israel religious leaders need to accept the fact and begin to live as a free people in their own land. They do not need high ghetto walls to protect them from outside forces as in Europe in former years. The proper place for the rabbis to express their religious views is from their own pulpits and not on the Knesset [parliament] floor.”

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The Jesus Movement: Now It’S In The Hamlets

Youth-accented revival has come to Greensburg, Kentucky (pop. 2,400), and to dozens of other small towns.

At the Greensburg United Methodist Church last month, a scheduled weekend of youth meetings led by Vanderbilt seminarian Jerry Matney, 24, stretched on for fourteen nights and 350 professions of faith, mostly by teen-agers. Toward the end, adults were packing into the 250-seat church too, and the entire town was talking about the revival—and the changed lives.

“I’ve been in the ministry twenty years and have never seen anything like this,” says pastor Gene Weddle, who adds that his own commitment to Christ deepened.

The meetings were marked by spirited hand-holding sing-alongs, Jesus cheers (“Give me a J …”), quiet prayer, testimonies by converts lined up by the dozens, and God-heavy folk songs by Matney interspersed with soft-spoken thoughts about Jesus and life. There was no hell-fire preaching, but plenty of tears were shed at the altar.

One night a husky football type sobbed, “I love Jesus, and I’m not going to booze him out any longer.” The area’s long-haired sandal set turned out. Billie Judd, 17, received Christ when a throng of converts surrounded him and prayed. Friends and teachers remarked about his abrupt change of life. “You just don’t know how it is to have Jesus until you experience it,” he explained. Hip collegian Ellis Estes made news when he testified in front of the courthouse as part of a witness delegation.

Baptist minister Paul Whitler tells of finding the town’s leading young trouble-makers congregated late one night outside a closed drive-in. Instead of petting and guzzling beer, he reports, they were talking about Jesus. “He’s what we’ve really wanted for a long time,” said one.

Sixteen-year-old Richard Patterson woke up his parents one night to tell them of his new love for Christ. His testimony at their rural Baptist church sparked a mini-revival there one Sunday.

Non-Christian students at the 800-pupil high school remarked in interviews about changes they’ve noticed among turned-on-to-Jesus classmates: joyous moods, vanished enmities, mutual concern and love. There were lunch-hour Bible-study and prayer sessions, campus outreach rallies, blackboards with Jesus slogans, and lapel buttons urging “Join the Jesus Revolution.”

Some townspeople—including a few of Weddle’s members—say the movement is only an emotional fad. Mayor George Huddleston, a Methodist, disagrees. “This is the most wonderful spiritual awakening this community has perhaps ever witnessed,” he says. As a pretty blonde named Linda put it: “It’s true I laughed and cried the first four days, but now I have a deep-down joy and peace. God is there.”

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Others criticized the shouts and informal styles. Leading town merchant Jim Durham, who says the revival made his teen-age son happier than ever, insists there’s nothing to criticize: “no cult, no ritual, no gimmick.” And Mayor Huddleston believes many church members have made “formalities, rituals, and programs poor substitutes for the real thing, and our young people have seen through this.” He thinks the town’s adults are searching now too “for a faith that does something, like it has done in the lives of these kids.”

Weddle’s church has hired Matney, who grew up in Greensburg, for the summer. He and the Greensburg converts plan to carry the revival to neighboring communities and to hold forth in weekly non-denominational meetings.

Weddle worries about the future. Will Greensburg churches be able to bridge the generation gap? Will the movement survive its emotionally-high phase and go on to deeper things? There are examples around that serve to reinforce his worries—and to offer hope.

Matney, a rather new convert himself, had assisted street evangelist Barry Westbrook a few months earlier in youth meetings in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (pop. 18,000), where a weekend series in a Baptist church continued for thirty-five days and 2,000 decisions. But, said a church spokesman last month, everything is back to pre-revival normality; the youths left as quickly as they had come.


REINHOLD NIEBUHR, 78, founding editor of Christianity and Crisis, professor emeritus of Union Theological Seminary, and one of the most influential Christian thinkers of the twentieth century; in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (see also p. 23).

GREGORY PETER XV CARDINAL AGAGIANIAN, 75, retired chief of the Vatican’s missionary agency who in 1958 and 1963 had been regarded as a candidate for the papacy; in Rome.

But at Arnold, Nebraska (pop. 800), visited by revival last year, Methodist pastor Stan Schrag says effects linger on. Ten persons are already en route to the mission field or other full-time service, and four couples are preparing to follow them. Thirteen Bible-study groups headed by laymen thrive in the area. One coed who received Christ during the revival has been responsible for seventy-five conversions. The high school has sprouted a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter, thanks to a coach turned on at the revival. Smokey Kellner, former race-car driver now confined to a wheelchair because of a neck injury, received Christ in the revival, then led a number of young people to Christ. He and his wife still conduct a weekly youth Bible study, and they are eyeing the mission field. Arnold is a farm community near the city of North Platte.

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Arnold converts have been carrying the revival to other small towns, such as Nebraska City (pop. 7,500) and Buena Vista, Colorado (pop. 1,800), where recently hundreds of young people, including many transient hippies, joined the Jesus movement.

Meanwhile, the fires burn on elsewhere. Meetings at a Baptist church in Nortonville, Kentucky (pop. 755), ran six weeks after the young people took over. In Wauchula, Florida (pop. 3,400, sponsors hoped for 100 decisions in a week of meetings but got 1,100 instead, and spokesmen say the revival headed off racial trouble.


Religion In Transit

Faith Theological Seminary is selling its estate-like campus in the Philadelphia suburb of Elkins Park. The school is to relocate in Cape May, New Jersey, on property made famous by Dr. Carl McIntire. The Cape May site has until now housed Shelton College, which McIntire is moving to Cape Canaveral, Florida, on the heels of a dispute with New Jersey educational officials over academic standards.

A dispute between Ukrainian Catholics and Pope Paul VI grew hotter last month when the Vatican announced its refusal to allow Josef Cardinal Slipyj to visit North America. Slipyj, 79, was released from Soviet prison camps in 1963, reportedly on the condition that he leave the country quietly.

Baptist evangelist Arthur Blessitt and a Florida preacher friend survived a five-day march through embattled Belfast, Northern Ireland. They carried a 200-pound cross throughout both sides of a no-man’s-land dividing warring Protestants and Catholics. They were threatened three times and picked up once by British troops, but quickly released.

The Church of the Divine Saviour in Chico, California, was among ten buildings cited for excellence in design by the American Institute of Architects. Also a winner of an AIA 1971 honor award was the Florence Hollis Hand Chapel at Mount Vernon College, Washington, D. C.

The blowing of the fire whistle in Dallas, Oregon, each Saturday noon played havoc with the close of the service at the local Seventh-day Adventist church. The pastor persuaded the town council to forgo the Sabbath blast.

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An Institute of Contemporary Christianityhas been formed in Oakland, New Jersey, to combat occultism. The founders say they are particularly concerned with the effect of occultism upon youth.

A 109-year-old congregation on Manhattan’s East Side is selling its church to a developer in order to buy back the lot as part of a condominium. A new building is to be built for St. Peter’s Lutheran Church as an independent element in an office complex. The church stands to pick up $4,000,000 in the process, according to a New York Times report.

The makers of Hallmark cards say they will publish a series of inspirational greetings written by evangelist Billy Graham. The firm currently sells cards with messages from Norman Vincent Peale, Fulton Sheen, Martin Luther King, Pope John, and Cardinal Spellman.

The Kresge Foundation is offering a matching gift of $500,000 to Asbury College toward construction of a $1.5 million dormitory. The gift would be the largest single grant for capital development in the school’s eighty-year history. It is conditional on the college’s raising the additional $1 million.

World Scene

United Methodist Bishop John Wesley Shungu has pulled his 80,000-member church out of the recently organized Church of Christ in the Congo. Shungu said legal procedures were not followed in the establishment of the new communion.

Roman Catholic hospitals in Ontario have served notice that they will defy provincial government pressure to perform abortions.

A self-service vending machine sells copies of Scriptures to people walking along Rue d’Arlon in Brussels. The machine is situated on the street outside the headquarters of the Belgian Bible Society.

A new Word of Life camp was dedicated last month outside Nairobi, Kenya. It will serve as a youth center and a conference grounds.

A Presbyterian minister with a wife and three children was ordained into the Roman Catholic priesthood last month in Lisbon, Portugal.

Metropolitan Pimen of Krutitsy and Kolomna was named patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The 60-year-old priest succeeds Patriarch Alexis, who died last year.

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