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American Leaders Plead for Restoration of Jewish Rights in Russia

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, Associate Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Thurgood Marshall, Legal Counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Reverend Doctor Reinhold Niebuhr, Professor of Applied Christianity at Union Theological Seminary, today appealed to world leaders to give serious consideration to the situation of Soviet Jewry.

In a statement issued here, the four signatories said: “At a time when the minds and hearts of men are bent toward serious efforts to enhance understanding among the rations and to advance peace in the world, we are moved, as a matter of elementary conscience, to call attention to an injustice which seriously disturbs the international atmosphere and which requires hurane redress.

“We speak of the discrimination against the Jewish minority in the Soviet Union–the pattern of differential treatment to which Soviet Jews are subjected as an ethnic cultural and religious group. Such discrimination stands in utter contradiction to the ideological background of the USSR, as well as to its constitutional and legal framework. No less is it offensive to all men of good will and good conscience concerned with the rights of minorities everywhere,” the statement emphasized.

The four distinguished civil libertarians cite the fact that though the Jews are specifically recognized as a “nationality” in the Soviet Union, “they are the only group of this kind which since 1948 has been deprived by official policy of any of the attendant rights accorded to all other nationalities in the Soviet Union.” These include schools, newspapers, publishing houses and theatres in the national language, and instruction in the cultural and historical traditions of the people.

The statement also notes that religious Jews are hampered in the practice of their religion by the closing of synagogues and the official ban on the Hebrew language. And unlike the Russian Orthodox, Baptists and Moslems, “Jews are prevented from having a nation-wide” federation of religious communities.

“This unhappy situation has been brought into sharp relief by the systematic and organized campaign of Soviet press incitement against Judaism as a religion and on individual Jews as anti-social elements,” the four signers stressed. They concluded their statement with “an appeal of humanitarian concern” to the Soviet authorities calling for the following five steps:

1. Reinstatement of full cultural facilities for the Jewish minority; 2. Permission for Jewish religious institutions to practice their rites freely and to establish formal contact with each other; 3. Permission for Soviet Jewish cultural and religious institutions to establish contact with their counterparts in the outside world; 4. Permission for Soviet Jews to be reunited with their dispersed kin in Israel and throughout the world; and 5. To end the anti-Jewish press campaign.

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