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An appeal recently submitted to the United Nations General Assembly, signed by more than 900 Jews, clearly expressed the frustration of those who feel that this way of life can no longer be accepted by them:
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 unprecedentedly low percentage of Yiddish-speaking Jews is declining from day to day, in this country there is no future for us as Jews."
Thus, despite the official denial of a Jewish problem and defensive statements made by Soviet leaders, the unhappy situation continues. However, there is hope—an unprecedented number of Jews have within the past year been allowed to emigrate. This, however, does not solve the problems of those Jews who may wish to live freely and equally as Jews in the Soviet Union.
I firmly believe that we, as Members of Congress and concerned individuals, must continue to put pressure on Soviet leaders in the hope that they will respond and liberalize some of their rigid domestic policies. International public concern voiced in an appropriate manner has in the past influenced the Soviet leadership; let us hope that that response will continue and that it will result in the Soviet Jewish community being able to teach, practice, and perpetuate its culturalreligious cohesiveness and that those dissatisfied will be allowed to emigrate without harassment or fear.
1 New York Times, Sept. 21, 1971.
STATEMENT OF Hon. DANTE B. FASCELL, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Mr. Chairman, I would like to commend this subcommittee for holding hearings on a matter which is of utmost concern to Jews and non-Jews alike throughout the world, that of the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union. I feel it is incumbent upon Congress to focus its attention on this problem. As I have previously stated, in cosponsoring House Resolution 245, I would urge that our colleagues "join in bringing the moral force of this representative assembly to bear on this intolerable situation."
No group in history has been discriminated against as widely and as persistently as the Jews. It is indeed a sad commentary, in the wake of the holocausts of this century, that discrimination and persecution continue. In clear violation of its own constitution, which recognizes the right of national self-determination and cultural and religious freedom, the Soviet Government has consistently pursued a policy of forced assimilation of its minorities, which has been especially severe with regard to Soviet Jews. A once vast network of Jewish educational, cultural, and communal institutions has been wiped out. The number of synagogues has dwindled considerably and there is not even a seminary for the training of rabbis. Schools or classes for teaching Yiddish or Hebrew are not allowed. Yet, despite its thoroughness, or maybe because of its thoroughness, this systematic denial of cultural and religious rights on the part of the Soviet Government has clearly backfired.
NEW JEWISH CONSCIOUSNESS
It has only served to reawaken a Jewish consciousness and a yearning for a Jewish identity among Soviet Jews. The result of this policy of forced assimilation cannot be better expressed than in the words contained in an open letter addressed to Soviet leaders and the United Nations, signed by 900 Russian Jews and quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, of September 22, 1971: "In the Soviet Union ... where there “is no Jewish culture of national life, no Jewish school and no Jewish theater, where there is no opportunity to study the Jewish language, the culture or the history of the Jewish people, there is no future for us as Jews'."
With no future for them as Jews in the Soviet Union, many Soviet Jews see no other alternative open to them but to emigrate. The letter from which I just quoted is one of many, many similar appeals that have been sent by Russian Jews to the U.N., the U.N. Human Rights Commission, to the International Red Cross, and to prominent personalities, soliciting help in obtaining exit visas from the Soviet Union, at considerable risk to the petitioners. I say at considerable risk, because here again, the Soviet Union has disregarded its own laws and violated a number of international agreements and conventions to which it is signatory, concerning the right to emigrate. The right to emigrate is a fundamental one, to which we, as a nation of immigrants, are particularly sensitive. It is embodied in article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states unequivocally that "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
The Soviet Government has denied this right to thousands of Soviet Jews, and has treated those who have submitted application for visas as “enemies of the Soviet people." Applicants have faced dismissal from their jobs, have been subjected to harassment, anti-Jewish propaganda, and even arrest. The show trials for alleged hijacking attempts which took place during the past year in several Soviet cities can be seen as an effort to intimidate Soviet Jews, to discourage them from further pressing their demands. Far from instilling fear in them, it has only reinforced their determination to leave the U.S.S.R. The sitins, demonstrations, petitions, and open appeals to the public conscience of the world bear witness to their courage, and should be met not only with expressions of solidarity and concern, but with positive action.
SOVIET GOVERNMENT RESPONDS Indeed, it would appear that the Soviet Government has been sensitive to world protests against its treatment of Soviet Jews. At a time when the Soviet Union is embarked on a policy of rapprochement with the West, and wishes to make friends and influence nations,” the Western outcry has been a source of embarrassment to Soviet leaders. Although it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of these protests, I think it is safe to say that they contributed to the decision which was taken to commute the death sentences meted out to two of the defendants in the trial held in Leningrad last December for the alleged hijacking attempt. I think world attention and pressure has also affected—however mildly-Soviet emigration policies.
Although the number of Jews allowed to emigrate is merely a trickle compared to the number who have applied for exit visas, and probably represents even a smaller fraction of those who would wish to emigrate but haven't dared submit applications for fear of retribution, this number has increased in 1971, in comparison with previous years. During his recent Canadian tour, Soviet Premier Kosygin was questioned on the subject when he spoke before the Committee on External Affairs and National Defense in the Canadian House of Commons. Newspaper sources quote Premier Kosygin as saying that during the first 8 months of this year, 4,450 Jews had left Russia for Israel, as compared with 4.667 who were allowed to emigrate between 1945 and 1965. Although he did not give any figures for 1970. Premier Kosygin is reported to have given the number of 2,100 for the year 1969. The Washington Post of November 3 writes that 200 more visas have just been granted by Soviet authorities.
In light of these developments, it is clear that efforts made to pressure the Soviet Government into liberalizing its policies, both with regard to cultural and religious freedom within the Soviet Union and with regard to its emigration policies, should not be relaxed but expanded. It would seem that this matter should be one of high priority at the U.N., and should figure prominently on President Nixon's agenda during his forthcoming trip to Moscow.
STATEMENT OF HON. EDWIN B. FORSYTHE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with you my thoughts concerning the situation confronting Jews in the Soviet Union.
My colleagues, you have heard conflicting reports about the actual conditions in the U.S.S.R.
You have been told by a representative of the State Department that Soviet Jews, as a community, are not being terrorized. Such reports, he stated are "overdrawn.
You heard from a young woman who emigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union testify that Russian Jews do not live in concentration camps or suffer from the same physical terror as that inflicted under the Nazis. But, she said, "our spirit is in terror.'
Since World War II we have become acquainted with another term—cultural genocide—the snuffing out of a people through the gradual suffocation of its culture. This is a much more sophisticated attempt at killing a people than leading them to gas chambers. Indeed, it has taken world opinion until just recently to wake up to the hard facts of this Soviet policy of extermination. I hope it does not take the State Department much longer to recognize this intolerable weapon against humanity as practiced by the Soviets against many minorities, and especially against the Jews.
We have documented evidence of the closing down of most Jewish houses of worship in Russia. We know that most Jews are unable to make "Matzoth,” the special unleavened bread for Passover because the ingredients are not available to them. Prayer books are not permitted to be printed in Hebrew and prayer shawls and other ceremonial garments are not sold. Prayer books which are sent from outside the Soviet Union rarely reach the people for whom they were intended.
We have the words of several recent emigrants from the Soviet Union that a Russian Jew can progress so far within a profession if he is a practicing Jew. Special training schools and universities are closed in the Soviet Union to practicing Jews.
Many Jews have applied for visas to emigrate to Israel from the Soviet Union but have been consistently denied until recently when a few finally received permits. These visas have been given to Jewish "leaders." One does not have to stretch the imagination too much to see the logic behind this new Soviet policy. By ridding themselves of the activists, they seek to quell the uproar from within the suppressed Jewish population of 3 million, and calm world opinion.
Freedom and liberty are the cornerstones of our Nation and our national attitude toward all peoples on this planet. I don't think we should be lulled to sleep by press releases from the Russian Embassy and the issuance of a few dozen visas. That is way I have joined many of my colleagues in cosponsoring three bills which I hope will shed more light on this situation and influence world opinion against the practices of cultural genocide as it exists in the U.S.S.R.
House Concurrent Resolution 446, urges the President of the United States to present to the United Nations General Assembly the issue of the right to emigrate from and return to one's country.
House Concurrent Resolution 221, requests the President to take affirmative action to persuade the Soviet Union to terminate discriminatory and repressive policies toward Soviet Jews.
H.R. 567, would have the Voice of America broadcast in the Yiddish language to the people in the Soviet Union. This would furnish a linguistic bond affording many thousands of people the opportunity to hear their language spoken when such practice is strongly discouraged and has disappeared among younger Jews in Russia.
Mr. Chairman and members of this committee, none of these resolutions will fully solve the problems facing Soviet Jews. But they are important because they show how much the people of this country care about the human rights and liberties of our fellow men all over the world. It illustrates the concern of our people that the policy of cultural genocide be stopped before it spreads. In addition, it includes a step by an arm of our Government, the Voice of America, to penetrate the Iron Curtain with its broadcasts in Yiddish and bring the message of hope and freedom to these oppressed people.