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Major U.S. Jewish Groups Appeal for Equal Rights for Soviet Jews

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Seventeen major American Jewish organizations today issued a Joint appeal to “men of good-will everywhere” to help secure equal rights for Soviet Jewry. The Jewish groups expressed “deep sorrow and ever-mounting concern” over the “tragic” position of the Jewish population of the Soviet Union.

The statement was accompanied by a fact sheet detailing the disabilities Soviet Jews face both as a cultural group and a religious community as a result of official Soviet policy. This policy, it was asserted, stands in “sharp contrast” to the treatment of other ethnic and religious groups in the Soviet Union. The appeal called for bringing “the full weight of responsible public opinion to bear so that the tragic position of Soviet Jews may be alleviated. “

“We find it difficult to believe,” the Jewish organizations declared, “that the Soviet authorities can refuse to take note of the collective concern of mankind. ” Copies of the statement have been sent to the headquarters of all United Nations delegations here.

The organizations signing the appeal included the major American Jewish religious bodies–Orthodox, Conservative and Reform–plus national Jewish civic and communal groups representing the great majority of American Jews. Signers were:

American-Israel Public Affairs Committee; American Jewish Congress; American Trade Union Council for Labor Israel; American Zionist Council; B’nai B”rith; Hadassah; Jewish Agency for Israel; Jewish Labor Committee; Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.; Labor Zionist Movement; Mizrachi-Hapoel Hamizrachi; National Community Relations Advisory Council; National Council of Young Israel; Union of American Hebrew Congregations; Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; United Synagogue of America; Zionist Organization of America.

The USSR’s discrimination policy, according to the statement, includes a “persistent refusal to restore their cultural institutions to Soviet Jews after years of forcible deprivations; the continued removal of Jews from most leading positions in Soviet political life; and a campaign of incitement in Russia and the Ukraine against Judaism. “

CHARGE SOVIET AUTHORITIES WITH STIMULATING ANTI-JEWISH INCITEMENT

The statement charged that “not only have the Soviet authrities ceased for many years now to enforce the penal clause against anti-Semitic incitement, but the Soviet press has been guided into publishing a vast number of scurrilous attacks upon Judaism as a religion and upon individual Jews as anti-social elements–publications which not only have an unmistakably anti-Semitic flavor but also act as incitement in a country where the public regards every publication as officially inspired,”

Asserting that this policy “contradicts the very principles of equality which the Soviet authorities have professed,” the Jewish organizations urged a “major change in policy towards Soviet Jewry, ” including:

1. The granting of full cultural and religious group rights and institutions in Yiddish and Hebrew to Soviet Jews, including the right to organize a nationwide federation of Jewish communities.

2. Permission to emigrate for purposes such as the reunion of dispersed families, “in accordance with international obligations assumed by the Soviet Union under the United Nations Charter. “

3. The resumption of organizational contact between Soviet Jews and Jewish groups in other parts of the world.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, when asked today by newsmen in front of the Soviet Embassy to comment on a statement issued a week ago by Walter Reuther. president of the United Auto Workers, and other Americans, denouncing “cultural anti-Semitism” in the Soviet Union, replied; “One should not pay attention to dogs that howl and bark. Any reasonable person would walk away when he hears them. “

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