WASHINGTON (Apr. 5)
Powerful appeals to the people of the United States and to the American Government to help American Jewry in the fight for securing full and equal rights for Jews in the Soviet Union were voiced here tonight at the opening session of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, convened by 24 major American Jewish organizations and representing practically all the Jews in this country.
More than 500 delegates are attending the two-day conference which opened this evening at the Willard Hotel here with impressive addresses by Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg, U.S. Senator Abraham A. Ribicoff and Rabbi Uri Miller, president of the Synagogue Council of America.
Justice Goldberg emphasized that “discrimination against Soviet Jews has reached “alarming proportions. ” Sen. Ribicoff revealed that the Senate will hold hearings on the resolution introduced last September by 64 Senators, denouncing Soviet discrimination against Jews. Rabbi Miller declared that American Jewry “will not rest until justice is achieved for the Jews in Russia. ” Label A. Katz, national president of B’nai B’rith, presided over the session.
GOLDBERG SEES USSR ANTI-JEWISH DISCRIMINATIONS REACHING ‘ALARMING PROPORTIONS’
Justice Goldberg stressed that “the denial of human rights by the Soviet Union to Jews is properly a matter of deep concern to all Americans of every religious persuasion. ” He emphasized that the conference “cannot be unmindful of the plight of the great body of people in the Soviet Union whose human right to freedom of religious exercise is substantially curtailed.
“The discrimination against Jews by the Government of the Soviet Union is an aspect of overall discrimination against all religious groups, ” Justice Goldberg said. “It is, however, something more than a manifestation of religious repression by an atheist state. The evidence is overwhelming that the religious and cultural freedom of Soviet Jewry is more severely limited than any other religious group and that discrimination against Soviet Jews has reached alarming proportions. The tragic experience of mankind with the cancer of anti-Semitism, so fresh in the minds of all, makes it imperative that those who believe in the dignity of man and in human rights speak out in vigorous protest.”
Pointing out that the conference here is “a mutually unprecedented testimonial to the unity of Jewish opinion” on the treatment of Jews in Soviet Russia, Justice Goldberg expressed confidence that the Jews in the United States “will continue to protest against the virus of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union until no vestige of it remains.”
Justice Goldberg then enumerated specific discriminations practiced against Jews in the Soviet Union, as compared with the rights enjoyed by other nationalities in the USSR. “Jews, ” he said, “are vilified in the Soviet press and other mass media which reflect hostility to the Jewish people as such. This has reached such proportions that Western Communist parties, which generally follow slavishly the Kremlin line, have been moved to protest the publication of a blatantly anti-Semitic book, published late last year in Kiev, copies of which have Just come to light in this country and in the rest of the Western world.
HITS ‘JUDAISM’ BOOK; NOTES MANY DEATH SENTENCES AGAINST JEWS
“This book,” ‘Judaism Without Embellishment,’ he said, “is not a privately printed tract; it was officially issued by the Ukrainian Academy of Science and had a substantial press run in the Ukrainian language. I have seen this book, and its cartoons are sharply reminiscent of Julius Streicher’s Der Stuermer, that notorious Nazi publication.”
The Supreme Court of Justice said he noted in today’s newspapers that the hierarchy of the Soviet Ideological Committee of the Communist Party has issued what appears to be a partial repudiation of “Judaism Without Embellishment.” “This is welcome, if somewhat belated,” he said, “but in itself demonstrates the value of forthright, worldwide protest against manifestations of anti-Semitism. ” (See separate story, Page 3.)
Justice Goldberg pointed out that Jewish emigration from the USSR, even for the limited purpose of reuniting families torn asunder by war and Nazi persecution, is permitted only ” on the most insignificant scale.” He also asserted that there is increasing evidence of discrimination against Soviet Jews in employment and in areas of public life.
Stressing that “an undue proportion of Jews is being prosecuted and executed for economic crimes,” Justice Goldberg said: “No law-abiding citizen of any nation, and particularly no judge, can urge that any person or group is immune from the equal application of any nation’s law. But when 60 per cent of those executed in the Soviet Union for economic crimes are Jews–who comprise only a little more than one per cent of its population–then the belief is naturally fostered that Jews are receiving unequal treatment under Soviet law.”
Justice Goldberg also touched on the play “The Deputy,” He said. “I am one who, having read the full text of Rolf Hochhuth’s controversial play, ‘The Deputy,’ and who having lived through those terrible days, believe that the dramatist did not do justice to that great and good Pontiff, Pope Pius XII. Jews are and should be grateful for what the Pope and the Catholic Church did to rescue innocent Jewish victims of Nazi insanity and barbarism. But whatever one’s views about the play’s characterization of the Pope, all men of good will must agree with the ancient Biblical teaching echoed in the play, that we are indeed our brother’s keeper, and that it is the duty of all men at all times and under all circumstances to speak out against the denial of human rights whenever and wherever such denial occurs. In matters of conscience, there can be no missing voices.”
RIBICOFF CALLS ON WORLD CONSCIENCE, U.S. SENATE TO SPEAK OUT FORCEFULLY
Senator Ribicoff, in a lengthy address, reviewed the situation of the Jews in the Soviet Union and the discrimination practiced against them in various fields. He called upon the “world conscience” to put the fight for equal Jewish rights in Russia as a “major item” on its agenda. He called especially on all Americans to raise their voices in protest, saying that: “Within our government, the Senate of the United States has historically been one of the most effective forums for expressing officially the aroused conscience of our country.”
He therefore called upon the Senate to “meet its solemn responsibility again by condemning religious persecution behind the Iron Curtain.” He told the audience that, last September, he introduced a Senate resolution for this purpose, which was supported by 63 other Senators from all parts of the country, representing different points of view in both political parties, “who shared in the belief that it is time for the Senate to take an official stand on the Soviet Government’s systematic policy of Jewish persecution.
“The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. J. William Fulbright, has assured me that hearings will be held on my resolution,” said Sen. Ribicoff. “I am hopeful they will take place at an early date, and be followed by prompt passage of the resolution. The Soviet Government will feel the force of public opinion aroused in this nation and throughout the world,” he stated. “Since Soviet Jews are utterly helpless, defenseless and without voice, we must do for them what they cannot do for themselves,” he declared.
MILLER TELLS OF SYNAGOGUES CLOSED; KATZ STRESSES JEWISH UNITY ON ISSUE
Rabbi Miller reported among other things that 396 synagogues have been closed in Russia during the last seven years, and that less than 100 have remained now, according to official publications in the Soviet Union. He also drew attention to the fact that Jewish cemeteries have been and are being closed in Moscow, Kiev and Minsk. He stressed the fact that some 200 Jews have been sentenced to death for alleged “economic crimes,” and that no Jewish book has been published in the Soviet Union in the last two years, nor have any cultural institutions, closed during the Stalin purge, been permitted to reopen.
“It is true,” he said, “that Soviet Russia has always been opposed to religion. It is true that there have been certain laws applicable to all religions that have hampered and impeded religious development and progress. It is true that the Jewish religion has suffered in some degree as part of these limitations. But we have in Russia, insofar as our people are concerned, a discrimination within a discrimination. The tragic story of today’s situation of Russian Jewry needs to be told again and again.”
Calling to order tonights opening session, B’nai B’rith president Label Katz stated: “We have a singular purpose. It is without political overtones. It is removed from Gold War problems.”
Highlighting the history of Soviet treatment of the Jews in the USSR with the outstanding current examples, Mr. Katz said: “We are here to speak for a community of Jews in the Soviet Union that is trapped in silence. It cannot speak for itself.” He referred to the conference as “an assembly of historic dimensions; an assembly predicated on Jewish unity–unity of mind and purpose,” and one which has “gathered to bear witness and to protest.”
Earlier reports from Washington that the organizers of the conference sent a cable to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, asking him for comment on the issues which the conference is discussing, were denied here today. No such cable was sent.
The 24 co-sponsoring organizations of the conference are: American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, American Trade Union Council for Histadrut, American Zionist Council, B’nai B’rith, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Hadassah, Jewish Agency for Israel-American Section, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, Labor Zionist Movement.
Also, Mizrachi-Hapoel Hamizrachi, National Community Relations Advisory Council, National Council of Jewish Women, National Council of Young Israel, Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbinical Council of America, Synagogue Council of America, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, United Synagogue of America, and the Zionist Organization of America.