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I would like also to call attention to the petition signed by 900 Soviet Jews which was presented to the United Nations General Assembly at the time of the opening of the 26th session. Representing Jews from about 20 Soviet cities and towns, the appeal is believed to be the result of the most widely coordinated signature-collection effort since Soviet Jews began to campaign for emigration in recent years. Calling on the Soviet leadership to change its policy barring unhindered emigration, the petition said:
The issue of free emigration of Jews to Israel is not a new one and is becoming more acute with every passing day. More and more Jews realize and then openly proclaim that they do not want to assimilate with other peoples. This movement has its historical causes and cannot be stopped by administrative directive.
Here in the U.S.S.R., where there is no Jewish culture or national life, where there are no Jewish schools or Jewish theaters, where there is no possibility of studying Yiddish or the culture and history of the Jewish people, where the unprecedently low percentage of Yiddish-speaking Jews is declining from day to day, in this country there is no future for us as Jews.'
Although it is not before this subcommittee I might mention that a resolution which I am cosponsoring, which would urge that the Voice of America broadcasts in Yiddish to the Soviet Union, would be an enormous symbollic gesture and of immense psychological support to Jews who would be able to listen to programs in their mother tongue. I am pleased that there are now 101 cosponsors in the House and 22 in the Senate.
TO REPORT A RESOLUTION
I hope that this subcommittee will report promptly to the full Committee on Foreign Affairs a strong resolution designed to channel as much of our energy as possible to the alleviation of the plight of Soviet Jewry.
Let me conclude by quoting from Ellie Wiesel's book, “The Jews of Silence":
In comparing the present situation to that of the recent past, a rabbinical scholar quoted to me the commentary given by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk on a verse from Exodus, “And the king of Egypt died, and children of Israel sighed by reason of their bondage.” The question was raised : All the time Pharaoh was alive the Jews labored and suffered; why, then, did they sigh at his death? Rabbi Menachem Mendel answered that before Pharoah died, even to sigh had been forbidden.
“Do you understand ?” the scholar said. “Today we are permitted to sigh--but only when no one is listening."
I am pleased that the hearings of this subcommittee indicate that Americans are listening, and that the sighs are heard. Hopefully one day these sighs will become cries of joy when the Soviet Jews are permitted to go to Israel.
3 The New York Times, Sept. 21, 1971.
STATEMENT OF Hon. ROBERT F. DRINAN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS
Mr. Chairman, I greatly appreciate this opportunity to present my views on the conditions which confront the Jews of the Soviet Union. Your committee is performing an excellent public service in its deliberations on this situation.
I pray that the experience of the Jews in the 20th century-and, indeed, the experience of persecution of Jews over 5,000 years—will never be forgotten. Antisemitism is a malignancy which is periodically suppressed, but unless we are constantly vigilant, it will proliferate. Unless Americans of every background and, particularly, those of us in Congress, bring to the attention of people throughout the world the plight of Soviet Jewry, we shall pay a terrible price for our negligence.
A dispatch from Moscow in the November 14, 1971, New York Times by Hedrick Smith contained the following account:
Striding along the treelined streets of the Moldavian capital of Kishinev a few days ago, a Jewish chemist quietly described how his fervent desire to emigrate to Israel was frustrated by fear. If he applied for an exit visa. he said he might lose his job, and there would be trouble for his wife and two small daughters.
In a Ukranian city, members of a large Jewish family complained that they had been waiting eight years to get out of their cramped, one room apartment. When new apartments become available, they said, Jews never seem to get them.
Accounts such as these are typical of the often-subtle, often-obvious discrimination levied against Jews by government agencies in the Soviet Union.
A constituent of mine who recently returned from an extensive tour of the Soviet Union reported that he had enormous difficulty in making contact with Soviet Jews. “They fear to talk with Americans in public places, or even in their own homes,” he said, “because they have reason to believe that secret service agents are watching and listening."
Some Americans who travel in Russia have adopted the practice of secretly depositing ritual prayer shawls and copies of the Hebrew scriptures in Russian synagogues. Ritual objects of the Jewish faith are systematically destroyed by anti-Jewish elements in the Soviet Union.
Jewish synagogues have been closed, and only a comparative few remain. More than 90 percent of the remaining synagogues have no rabbis today because there is no Jewish seminary for training rabbis. The few remaining rabbis are old men in their seventies and eighties.
In his excellent study, "Soviet Jewry Today and Tomorrow" (New York: Macmillan Co., 1971), the distinguished correspondent Boris Smolar reports that the Jewish heritage in Russia is being extinguished:
On the whole, it can be said that the average young Jew in the Soviet Union feels like an orphan who is eager to find out more about the parents he has never seen. There is very little that his father or mother can tell him about the meaning of being a Jew, because most of the Jewish parents in the U.S.S.R. today are either Soviet-born themselves or they were raised under the Soviet regime. He looks, therefore, to his Jewish grandparents for Jewish guidanceif they are still alive.
Those of us in the Congress who have long supported heavy pressures by our Government to make the Kremlin change its policies with respect to Jewish emigration continue to be appalled by the callousness of the Soviet regime. Notwithstanding the unequivocal language of article 13, paragraph 2 of the United Nations Declaration on Iluman Rights—officially ratified by the Soviet Union—that "everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own," Soviet Jeurs are simply not permitted to leave, at least not in substantial numbers.
At a time when prison reform is becoming a high national priority in our country, we should pause and reflect on the effective imprisonment of Soviet Jews. As our Supreme Court has forcefully indicated in K’ent v. Dulles and a long line of other decisions, the freedom to travel outside of one's own country is a fundamental human right. Forbidden to leave Russia, the Soviet Jews are, in effect, incarcerated in a place where, for the most part, they are the victims of invidious class discrimination.
STATE DEPARTMENT VIEWS I realize that State Department employees have come before your committee and said, in effect, that there is no pervasive anti-Jewish discrimination in Russia. Such statements, I submit, are untrue and reflect badly upon our Government. I recognize that we are currently engaged in complex negotations with the Soviet Union. And I realize President Nixon wants nothing to detract from the success of his planned trip to the Soviet Union. And I realize that the SALT talks are in a critical phase. However, the State Department and other Federal agencies, in their attempts to keep the Kremlin at ease, have bent the truth to the point of obliteration.
To those who claim there is not systematic discrimination against the Soviet Jews, I would present Boris Smolar's account of employment opportunities for a Jew in Russia :
The Soviet economic machine, in need of all kinds of labor, no longer makes iny distinction between Jew and non-Jew, as was the case during the latter years of the Stalin regime, or even in the early years of the Khrushchev regime. Promotion of Jews to higher positions is a different thing. This may explain why Jewish engineers ... feel they do not receive the same recognition they see given to others.
Months ago I joined with Congressman William Ryan and many others of our colleagues in a resolution urging inclusion of Yiddish broadcasts over the Voice of America. The evidence is clear that a substantial portion of Soviet Jews speak Yiddish as their principal or secondary language. Yiddish broadcasts, even if only a few minutes a day, would indicate in a concrete way our compassion and warm feelingrs toward the Soviet Jews.
It was a very modest request.
Although it is hard to believe, the Director of the U.S. Information Agency, Mr. Shakespeare, and high-level representatives of the State Department refused to comply: They summoned a variety of largely misleading and irrelevent data in their arguments. At briefings, they stated and implied that Yiddish broadcasts, no matter how innocuous in content, were inconsistent with our Government's policy of not disturbing the Kremlin.
Is this the moral fiber which characterizes American history? Is this the broad dissemination of differing points of view piously claimed by the Voice of America? I think not.
Mr. Chairman, I believe that in matters affecting the social status of an ethnic or religious group in any country, we must speak out when there is pervasive injustice. The evidence of such injustice in the case of the Soviet Jews is overwhelming. If we fail here to protest, then we will have made a mockery of those principles upon which our Nation was founded. The lesson of Nazi Germany must never be forgotten : If we ignore this problem, it most certainly will not go away. By enlisting the force of world opinion in protest against class discrimination in Russia, we can hope to get results. History demonstrates that the Russians are at least as sensitive to our opinion of them as we are to their opinion of us.
FIVE SPECIFIC DEMANDS I therefore urge our Government to endorse the five specific demands upon the Soviet Government made by the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry:
1. To permit Jews throughout the U.S.S.R. freely to develop Jewish communal and religious life and institutions and to associate and work with comparable Jewish communities and religious groups inside and outside the Soviet Union.
2. To make available the educational institutions, schools, teachers, textbooks, and scholarly materials necessary to teach Soviet Jews the heritage, the languages, the history, the beliefs, the practices, and the aspirations of the Jewish people.
3. To permit its Jewish citizens freely to practice, enhance, and perpetuate their culture and religion by the establishment of appropriate institutions including places of worship, and other religious facilities, theaters, publishing houses, newspapers, and journals, and to remove all discriminatory measures designed to restrict this freedom.
4. To use all means at its disposal to eradicate anti-Semitism and discrimination against individual Jews and to require, as the first step in this program, the immediate cessation of the virulent antisemitic propaganda that has suffused the Soviet mass media since the Six Day War between the Arabs and Israel in 1967.
5. To permit Soviet Jewish families, many of whom were separated as a result of the Nazi holocaust, to be reunited with their brethren abroad and to implement the Kosygin promise of family reunion.
These demands are just. They were first promulgated several years ago and were adopted on February 25, 1971, by the World Conference of Jewish Communities on Soviet Jewry, held in Brussels. The conference was attended by 750 Jewish leaders from 27 countries, and was addressed by, among others, former Justice Arthur Goldberg, and David Ben Gurion, former Prime Minister of Israel.
Mr. Chairman, I applaud your committee's concern with these problems and I appreciate this opportunity to express my views.
STATEMENT OF Hon. Joshua EILBERG, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA The plight of Soviet Jews, who have in many cases been degraded to second class citizens in a society which professes to be ideal and equal is a matter of great concern to us all. They have been denied the right to religious and cultural freedoms, and the right to emigrate freely, in violation of the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is indeed fitting that this subcommittee has undertaken the task of considering this humanitarian problem.
We have become more and more aware that the Soviet Jewish minority is deprived of adequate religious facilities, has very limited secular-cultural facilities, lacks Yiddish or Hebrew teaching, and is discriminated against in job promotions and university attendance. These restrictions on Jewish life appear to be a part of the Soviet policy of assimilation. The alternatives offered to the Jewish community is either silent acceptance of forced assimilation or serious restrictions on its cultural, religious, and educational rights.
In the past, the Soviet Jewish community has silently accepted these conditions, only in recent years many have come to realize that they can no longer tolerate this way of life. They have openly challenged the system which has deliberately denied them rights generally accorded to other Soviet ethnic minorities. They have staged sit-ins, actively demonstrated for full civil liberties, and circulated petitions outlining their status within Soviet society and appealed for emigration rights.
A HISTORICAL PROBLEM Although the Jewish problem in the Soviet Union has never been officially recognized or accepted as existing, it is indeed a problem which has existed for centuries. During the czarist era discrimination and persecution of the Jewish minority culminated in widespread pogroms which resulted in the elimination of a large number of Jews. However, the Jewish community managed to survive and maintain its religious-cultural cohesiveness. The Bolshevik rise to power offered new hope to Soviet Jews—the emergence of a free and equal system and society, yet this hope was quickly squelched. The new system demanded assimilation of all nationalities, which in practice meant the abandonment of traditions, customs, and beliefs. The Stalin era brought devastation to the Jewish community, for Stalin's solution to the Jewish problem was one of elimination-abolishing all Yiddish cultural institutions and executing or imprisoning Jewish leaders. However, the Jewish minority survived in silent tolerance. This era of silence, however, has ended. Those Jews who wish to live freely as Jews have loudly voiced their objections and have demanded to be heard.