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identity that they had never had before. This despite official repression-or possibly because of it.
And so I am deeply grateful and honored at the opportunity to add my voice to this protest. Indeed, it is a duty we all owe to the cause of humanity to insure that this protest is heard. We dare not remain silent in the face of this injustice, in the face of this pernicious program of religious and cultural genocide. I join you in urging the President to make it amply clear to Soviet authorities how gravely the people of the United States regard the plight of Soviet Jews. I join you in your prayers that the similarity we now see between present Soviet policy and the program of Nazism in the 1930's will grow no greater. I join you in demanding a halt to the persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union and the granting of their right to leave that country.
If America is to keep its promise to posterity it cannot ignore the cause of liberty wherever it is challenged. To raise a high standard for all the world is to impose a special discipline upon ourselves. That we sometimes have to admit failure in reaching our own goals is no reason to lower that standard.
The fact that applying such a standard is sometimes uncomfortable is no excuse for not seeing the world as it is. The probability, that deserting that standard will be dangerous is confirmed by the experience of the decade of the 1930's.
And so we must look at the plight of Soviet Jewry today.
The phenomenon of antisemitism in Russia is, of course, not new. Unhappily, it is deeply woven into the fabric of Russian history going back centuries and continuing to this day. This fact is generally known. What may not be so well known, however, is the long history of American intercession on behalf of victimized Jews in Russia. In 1881, Secretary of State Frelinghuysen directed a strong protest to the czarist court regarding pogroms inflicted on Jews in Warsaw. Again in 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt forwarded to the czar a petition signed by thousands of American citizens of all religions protesting the Kishinev massacre. In 1906, the Senate and House of Representatives passed a joint resolution condemning the continued mistreatment of Jews in Russia. As this proved unavailing, the House of Representatives in December 1911, voted to terminate the treaty of 1832, which had governed trade and commerce with czarist Russia for almost a century.
My view of antisemitism in the U.S.S.R. has just been made all the more graphic by the report of George Moore, a member of my staff, who has just returned from the Soviet Union where he had sought to observe the trial of 40 Soviet Jews and other Russians accused of conspiracy to flee by plane to Finland, and thence to Israel.
At the last moment the trial was postponed to December 15 and has now resulted in the death penalty for two of the defendants. Despite the postponement, George Moore's visit did induce significant conclusions. In short, it appears that Soviet policy is bent on a kind of religious and cultural genocide-annihilation of Judaism as a faith and the Jewish people as an ethnic entity within the borders of the Soviet Union.
In contrast to the peaceful celebration of Hanukah, now being observed in much of the civilized world, for example, the Soviet authorities appear to have started systematically disrupting special re
ligious services for the Jewish youth. Several weeks ago, I understand, police burst into the Leningrad synagogue during the traditional Simchas Torah, the final day of the Succos celebration, grinding cameras and shouting into megaphones, “It's all over. Go home.”
Even in Russia this raises a serious question as to the credibility of article 124 of the Soviet Constitution which purports to guarantee "freedom of religious worship."
Reports that anti-Israeli propaganda is reverberating not only against Russian Zionists, but increasingly against every Jew in the Soviet Union are a sombre note at the year's end. For, inevitably, when the Soviet press says "Zionist," most Russians read "Jew.” When the newspapers attacked Western demonstrations in support of Soviet Jews, George Moore witnessed antisemitic abuse, directed at random against unsuspecting Jews in the streets of Moscow.
At the same time, in one important sense, the Soviet repression has backfired. I am encouraged to hear that Soviet Jewry appears to be undergoing a resurgence of spirit, particularly among the youth. The unprecedented barrage of propaganda following the 6-day war has produced an unexpected result—that of arousing, often intensely, many a dormant Jewish consciousness.
Young Jews have recently taken to celebrating Jewish holidays publicly, in front of the few remaining synagogues—despite the ominous clicking of KGB cameras. Jewish students say they are loath to change their names. Young half-Jews speak militantly of changing from “Russian” to “Jewish" the nationality their parents had registered for their passports. In a popular Leningrad restaurant my aide observed a large group of young Jews vigorously and repeatedly-he
— says defiantly—singing "Hava Nagila” and other Israel songs.
Israel seems to have provided a great stimulus, with its image of the wiry Israeli soldier standing up and fighting it out in the Middle East. For the first time in decades, it seems the resolve of Soviet Jews is waxing, and not waning. This increase in Jewish identity, this revival of Jewish consciousness is encouraging and gives hope that the long drive to eliminate Jewishness in the Soviet Union may at last encounter significant resistance.
Recently, I was moved, as I think were many Americans, to see photographs of Chancellor Willy Brandt of West Germany, kneeling at the monument to the Polish Jews who perished at Nazi hands in the Warsaw ghetto. At the same time I was stirred by this reminder that the Polish Government, which has given support to antisemitism, has itself memorialized these tragic victims by erecting an imposing monument.
What makes these remembrances all the more poignant, though, and why I mention them now, is the striking contrast afforded by the Soviet Union. At Babi Yar, near Kiev in the Ukraine, some 35,000 to 100,000 Jews were brutally massacred in 2 days by the Nazis. And yet there, at that unfortunate site, there stands no monument, there stands no memorial-only emptiness and desolation.
This is not for lack of Jewish interest. Nor is it because the Soviets are averse to commemorating the war dead. Kiev itself, Moscow, Leningrad-indeed all Soviet cities-abound with war memorials. Even outside the U.S.S.R., most notably in Berlin and Vienna, the Russians have left imposing monuments to those of their number who encountered the Nazi menace.
Yet Babi Yar stands barren—by Soviet Government dictate. Not only is that a tragedy to every Jew, it is an affront to all humanity. Unfortunately, it is characteristic of the Soviet treatment of Jews.
Joel Cang, an American writer, has posed a telling question: If the Jewish murdered are obscured, how do the living fare?
History may have its cycles, affording people breathers, but for the Russian Jew there has been scant respite. Czarist Russia oppressed these people, but Jewish life survived. During three centuries of Romanov rule, two sets of antisemitic laws were issued, containing over 500 restrictions.
Earlier, during the 16th century, Ivan the Terrible ordered the drowning of many Jews who refused to renounce their faith. Even the pogroms, evidence suggests, were instigated by the czarist rulers.
But, despite this, Jewish organizations and newspapers were commonplace. Up to 1914, in fact, one-fourth of all the books published in Hebrew had been published in Russia.
By sharp contrast, however, what Russian Jewry managed to preserve under the czars has been persistently eroded under communism. Stalin, we know, pushed anti-Semitism to new heights. With one hand purging all his real and suspected enemies, many of them Jews, Stalin with the other snuffed out Jewish cultural institutions-newspapers, theaters, colleges. Between 1934 and 1939, he closed 750 schools teaching in Yiddish, attended at one time by over half the Jewish children in the Soviet Union.
Within several years after the establishment of Israel, the campaign against Soviet Jewry intensified. Each day new attacks unfolded in the press. As never before, the Jew was singled out and stigmatized as an alien, a stranger with no attachment to his native land. Culminating this treacherous drive was the arrest, in 1948, of leading Jewish personalities artists, musicians, government and party officials, and over 200 writers and poets. Almost all perished in concentration camps. Among those executed were 26 of the most prominent writers, who have been described as "the cream of secular Yiddish culture.”
Soon thereafter, in 1953, Stalin unveiled the “Doctors' Plot" which set off a program of mass deportation to Siberia of Soviet Jews.
Yet Stalin's demise did not herald an end to Soviet anti-Semitism. It merely transformed its character. The Russian Jew remains the object of measures aimed at his debasement, his humiliation, his banishmentwhat Sartre, in his "Portrait of the Anti-Semite," describes as "symbolic murder.” More subtly, but no less effectively, all that is Jewish is still being driven to extinction. Cultural genocide of Soviet Jewry continues unabated.
The attack on Jewish religious life has been particularly severe. At the time of Stalin's death there were still 500 synagogues in the U.S.S.R. Under Khrushchev the number was slashed to less than 100. Now they number barely 60. And this is with a Jewish population of some 3 million. It is in contrast, for example, with the nation's 540,000 Baptists with their 5,500 churches. In Moscow there is only one synagogue and two prayer rooms for 400,000 Jews.
For over 5 years the Soviet Union has been without any yeshiva for the training of rabbis. One was opened in Moscow in 1957, but the youngest student at any time was 40, and at no point were there more than 13 students. In 1962, it was reduced to four students and subse
quently closed. With Soviet rabbis averaging 70 years of age, the implications should be clear.
Publication of religious material is severely restricted. The few Jewish prayer books allegedly printed a few years ago apparently were shipped abroad as “proof” that Jewish prayer books are indeed published in the Soviet Union. Whereas other faiths have had Bibles printed, the Jews have had none.
The baking of matzoh, the unleavened bread used in the observance of Passover, has been forbidden. Restrictions have even been imposed on Jewish burial traditions.
Antisemitic propaganda consistently portrays rabbis, and lay leaders as money worshippers. Judaism is constantly denigrated, its rites mocked, its essential tenets ridiculed. Allegations of drunkenness in the synagogue is a favorite theme, and fighting is said to occur frequently, usually over the illicit profits from black market and religious "speculations.
Each of the remaining synagogues in the Soviet Union stands alone. While other faiths have a central organization and interchange among their congregations, the Jews are permitted none.
Secularly, Soviet Jews are further isolated by very limited means of communication. Compared with the 80 Jewish newspapers and periodicals published during the first decade after the revolution, the only present outlets are a monthly published in Moscow and a twopage Yiddish paper issued in Birobidzhan, the so-called Jewish autonomous region. But, even in Birobidzhan, the schools do not teach Yiddish. Nor do the Jews have other cultural facilities, such as schools, libraries, and social organizations. Reporting on his journey there in 1959, Max Frankel of the New York Times referred to the "shack that serves as a synagogue” where Sabbath services were conducted without a rabbi. Birobidzhan is but a Soviet fiction, a faded showcase of the 1920's.
Soviet Jews are treated on a level with the smallest ethnic groups which until the revolution were still leading a nomadic life and had no alphabet. Among the other groups with only one newspaper or journal in their native language are the Nenets with a population of 25,000, and the Chuckchi with a population of 12,000.
As compared with the 3 million Jews, the 50,000 Kurds have three newspapers, the 100,000 Tuvinians 10, and the 200,000 Kara-Kalpakinas 12—all in their native language.
With books on recent Jewish history nonexistent in the Soviet Union, there has sprung up an “underground" press which translates, types, and distributes the works of current Israeli writers as well as early Russian Zionists.
On another cultural front, Yiddish theater has dissolved in over 40 Soviet cities and is now reduced to infrequent troupe appearances which concentrate most, it is said, on ridiculing the Jewish religion and its customs.
Clearly, then, the object of Soviet policy is, as Moshe Decter says: To intimidate and atomize Soviet Jewry, to isolate it both from its past and from its brethren to destroy its Jewish spirit.
The Soviet Union demands that every Jew become an alien to his heritage, that he "assimilate." He must disappear into the scene.
But even here there are enormous contradictions. Soviet Jews have virtually disappeared from high positions of political importance in the party, in the government, in the military. Since Khrushchev the Higher Party School has been closed to Jews. No longer are they admitted into the Russian diplomatic service.
It is getting much tougher for a Jew to get a job, to hold onto it, to advance in it. Since the 1960's, Jewish numbers at the universities have become restricted, often rigidly so, especially at Moscow and Leningrad.
Thus, while Soviet Jews are resisting their total assimilation, so, too, is the Soviet Government. The official push and pull moves on to exact its toll: Neither Jew nor Russian, but second-class citizen, 3 million of them.
The long tradition of American sympathy for the plight of Russian Jews, extending over a century of Russian-American relations, now demands new proof of our commitment to this aspect of the fight for human dignity and individual liberty.