Proclamation of Sunday, March 16, as a day of national protest by American Jewry against the persecution of the Jewish and other religions by the Soviet Government was made Wednesday evening by one hundred and fifty delegates, representing 24 national Jewish organizations, who met at the invitation of the American Jewish Congress, after hearing Rabbi Stephen S. Wise declare he doubted whether Russian Jews are better off under Soviet rule than they were under the Czars.
In the resolution unanimously adopted by the conference, Jewish communities and organizations throughout the country were asked to hold mass demonstrations of protest on that day, and to adopt resolutions expressing their sentiments in regard to Soviet Russian reliigous policy and actions.
Emphasized in the resolution and throughout the entire procedure was the declaration that American Jews are not seeking the downfall of the Soviet system and are not attacking Sovietism, but are protesting solely against persecution of Jews and non-Jews because they continue to uphold their religion. Resentment over attempts to characterize the protest movement as a blind for a concerted attack on the Soviet Government were freely expressed.
“We have neither the right nor the will to intervene in the political and economic life of the Soviet Republic,” Dr. Wise declared in explaining the stand of the leaders of the American Jewish protest movement. “We resent as unjust and untruthful the charge that we are linked with reactionary and capitalistic groups in a war upon Soviet Russia. We will not suffer ourselves to be mendaciously charged with having part in a conspiracy to undermine the political and economic views of the Soviet Republic.
“Soviet Russia has no right to deprive Jews of their right to worship,” he continued. “We deny the right of the Soviet Republic to practice a system of outrage and infinite wrong against the religion of the Jews in Russia.”
Soviet Russia, Dr. Wise asserted, will never be recognized by the government of the United States while it denies the rights of individuals to worship. The conditions of Jews under the Soviet rule today might be considered worse than those existing under the Czar when in 1912 Congress felt impelled to abrogate to the Russo-American treaty because of discriminations against Americans of Jewish ancestry, he declared.
“I do not know whether or not we ought to yearn back to the days of Czarism, for then the Jewish people could live as Jews,” Dr. Wise told the conference. “I know they were oppressed, but at least the wrongs of the Czars were frank and unhypocritical. They did not do those things in the name of the good of Russia.”
Concluding by berating the “timid and fearful” Jews afraid to speak, to act and to accept responsibility, Dr. Wise called upon the conference for courageous, concerted action and affirmed:
“We are answerable and we accept the responsibility for uttering, in the name of religion and in the name of humanity, our solemn protest against the savage attempts of the Soviet Government to destroy the ancient and noble faith of the Jews in Russia.”
Other speakers included former Representative Nathan D. Perlman who advocated an appeal to all nations having diplomatic relations with Russia, to sever them unless the Soviet Government changes its religious policy; Max J. Kohler, speaking for the Independent Order B’nai B’rith; Carl Sherman, chairman of the Special Committee on Russia of the American Jewish Congress; Bernard G. Richards, secretary of the Congress; and Leo Glassman, former newspaper correspondent in Russia. Bernard S. Deutsch, president of the American Jewish Congress, acted as chairman of the conference.
The resolution introduced by Israel Thurman and adopted by the conference, follows, in full:
“This conference of representatives of national and central organizations, composed of American citizens convened by the American Jewish Congress for the taking of mutual counsel and the adoption of such measures as may be deemed necessary or proper with reference to the woeful conditions affecting the religious life of the Jews in Soviet Russia, and those of other faiths, hereby solemnly protest against the cruel, deliberate and unrelenting suppression of the teaching and practice of the Jewish faith in the land of the Soviet and against the numerous and unprecedented forms of punishment and persecution meted out to those of our co-religionists and of other faiths who are loyal and devoted to their sacred traditions. We voice the outraged sense not only of all Jews but of liberty-loving people the world over, regardless of creed, race, or country, at the denial of elementary human rights to those who only seek the peaceful pursuit of what to them constitute the eternal verities and the highest spiritual values in human life. We have no concern with the economic or social theories of the Soviet Government but we proclaim the right of every human being, in this late era of our civilization, to freedom of conscience and worship and to that elementary justice on the part of the State, so axiomatic as to require neither elucidation nor definition. We resent beyond all possible expression the prosecution of our rabbis and scholars as well as of teachers and communal leaders of other faiths, for no other crime than that of grievous and profound concern for the spiritual welfare of their communities. We assert the inalienable right of Jews everywhere when oppressed and outraged to invoke the aid and counsel of fellow-Jews anywhere. We contemplate with horror and unutterable grief the condition of our brethren in Soviet Russia, who have for years struggled against frightful odds and are now threatened beyond the loss of food and shelter, with the deprivation of all that they deem holy and precious. After battling consistently and for centuries together with the liberal and enlightened forces of mankind, we resent the accusation of plotting with reactionary agencies against the peace and welfare of the Soviet or any other State. We welcome the sympathy and cooperation of fellow-men and fellow-sufferers but we make common cause with those alone, who seek religious liberty in a spirit that is consistent with the rights, the welfare and the happiness of men.
“And, of course, in all this we join with our fellow-Americans of all faiths and groups in solemn protest against the violation of religious liberty, whether of Jew or non-Jew.
“And we hereby resolve that Sunday, March 16, 1930, be, and this date is hereby proclaimed, a day of national protest for the Jews of America and that on this day all national and central organizations represented at this conference shall hold mass demonstrations in their respective communities, voicing the protests and sentiments herein expressed. And this conference hereby further resolves that all resolutions adopted at such mass demonstrations be forwarded to the American Jewish Congress for such disposition as shall be determined at an adjourned meeting of this conference.”
The following organizations were represented by one or more delegates: Junior Hadassah, Senior Hadassah, Order Sons of Zion, Jewish Sabbath Alliance of America, Federation of Orthodox Rabbis, Federation of Ukrainian Jews, United Roumanian Jews of America, Jewish Ministers and Cantors Association of America, Independent Order Free Sons of Israel, Federation of Polish Jews, Independent Order Brith Abraham, Histadruth Ivrith, Young Israel, Jewish War Veterans, Jewish Welfare Board, Avukah, Congress Committee (Boston), Mizrachi Organization, Union of Orthodox Congregations, Independent Order Bnai Brith, Jewish Institute of Religion, Zionist Organization of America, Bronx Young Folks Federation, and the Council of Jewish Women.