WASHINGTON (Aug. 19)
A strong Democratic Party platform plank, voicing sharp protest against Soviet anti-Semitism, was urged today by Senator Abraham Ribicoff, Connecticut, who testified on behalf of 24 Jewish organizations. He appeared before the full Platform Committee and outlined a stand identical with a resolution he had submitted in the Senate, co-sponsored by 63 other Senators.
He asked the Democratic Party to express the conscience of the American people and “call attention to an old problem that has flared up recently in virulent form, the persecution of Soviet Jews.” “It is especially appropriate.” he said, “that the party of human dignity and of peace take an official stand on the Soviet Government’s systematic policy of attrition against the 3, 000, 000 Jewish citizens of the USSR,” The Soviet policy, said Sen. Ribicoff, aims “to shatter, pulverize and gradually eliminate Jewish historical consciousness and Jewish identity.”
His testimony was similar to that which he gave August 10, in an appearance as a witness before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on behalf of his resolution on this issue, which is backed by 24 Jewish organizations. Those organizations, comprising the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, represent the majority of the 5,500,000 Jews in the United States. George Maislen, chairman of the Conference steering committee, also testified before the Platform Committee.
SOVIET JEWS SEEN DEPRIVED OF CULTURAL, RELIGIOUS RIGHTS
In Senator Ribicoff’s testimony, the Platform Committee was presented with six specific points underscoring the anti-Semitic campaign pressed or condoned by the authorities of the Soviet Union. These points were:
1. The deprivation of cultural rights: Though the 3, 000, 000 Soviet Jews are officially recognized as a nationality, they are the only nationality deprived of the basic cultural rights accorded to all the others–their own newspapers, for example, publishing houses, books, language, or theater.
2. The deprivation of religious rights: Unlike all other religious denominations in the Soviet Union, Jewish congregations are not permitted to maintain nationwide federations or other central organizations. No Hebrew Bible has been published since 1917; there is an extreme shortage of prayer books and indispensable religious articles. Synagogues have been forcibly closed down in many cities and towns; the one rabbinical seminary in the country is permitted no more than three or four students.
3. The anti-Jewish propaganda campaign: This policy is conducted within the charged atmosphere of a virulent press and propaganda campaign against Judaism. In this campaign, Jews are represented in traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes. Judaism as a religion is vilified.
DISCRIMINATION PRACTICED IN EDUCATION, EMIGRATION
4. The scape-goating of Jews: Jews have been used as scapegoats for the economic ills that plague the country. Of the 195 people sentenced to death for such crimes, at least half, and possibly more, have been Jews.
5. Discrimination in education and employment: The proportion of Jews in higher education, science and the professions has been declining from 13.5 per cent in 1935 to 3.1 per cent today. Jews have virtually disappeared from the diplomatic service, and know that they cannot aspire to leading positions in economic, industrial, technical and engineering work.
6. Refusal of the right to emigrate: Jews who wish to leave the Soviet Union to be reunited with their families abroad are forbidden to do so.
“Soviet Jews,” Sen. Ribicoff concluded, “surely have the right to walk in dignity–no less than their fellow citizens of other nationalities and religions. They are deprived of this right–and the Democratic Party of the nation that is the leader of the free world has the obligation to protest in the name of human decency. I hope the Platform Committee will include this protest in the Democratic Platform of 1964.”
In his statement, Mr. Maislen, who is also president of the United Synagogue of America (Conservative), told the Platform Committee: “It is not important which party we represent, what faith we belong to or what our professional association might be–the cultural and religious oppression being carried on by the Soviet Union against its approximately 3, 000, 000 Jewish citizens is a crime that demands the universal protest of humanity. It is a moral and humanitarian issue, and not a political debate which concerns us.
“American Jews have a right to look to our government and our political leadership for support in taking all practical steps to help solve this grave problem. As one of the great political parties in our country, with an historical tradition of concern for oppressed minorities, we urge you to pledge our support in continuing to mobilize the forces of the Democratic Party to aid the fight against Soviet anti-Semitism.”