PHILADELPHIA (Apr. 17)
A united front of all people — the left as well as the right–to protest Soviet discrimination against Russian Jewry, was urged by Rt. Rev. James A. Pike, Episcopal Bishop of California, in an address this evening opening a two-day conference of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry here.
Speaking before 400 leaders of the 25 national Jewish organizations comprising the Conference, the noted churchman said that “rightwingers should not emphasize Soviet behavior towards its Jews because it is Soviet; leftwingers should not minimize it because it is Soviet. The restrictions on Jewish religion and culture in the Soviet Union, and the anti-Semitic manifestations there,” he said, “are not made worse or better because the Government is Communist. When it comes to human rights, rights of persons to be what they want to be, to group as they want to group — religiously, ethnically, or whatever — and value what they want to value, our concern should know no national boundaries.”
Other speakers at tonight’s session of the Conference that will formulate tomorrow a declaration of rights for Russian Jewry in Philadelphia’s historic Congress Hall, where the American Bill of Rights was adopted in 1791, were Rabbi Israel Miller, chairman of the sponsoring group, and Professor Erich Goldhagen, director of the Institute of East European Affairs at Brandeis University.
Rabbi Miller said that the basic demand of the American Jewish community “is for the right of the historic Russian Jewish community to continue its links with the past, to be given the facilities and institutions to fulfill itself in its present, and to be permitted the opportunity of creating a future by handing on its traditions, its faith, its languages and its culture to its children.”
The New York Orthodox rabbi, who as president of the Rabbinical Council of America, headed a group of nine rabbis who visited Leningrad, Moscow, Tbilsi and Kiev last summer, asked that “those families torn asunder in the Nazi holocaust, who were separated by war and its terrors, should be allowed to reunite with their families in Israel and other countries of the world, if they so desire.”
SOVIET JEWRY COMPARED TO MAN AFFLICTED WITH MORTAL ILLNESS
Prof. Goldhagen told the assembled leaders that the 3,000,000 Jews in the Soviet Union had 7,000 Jewish schools and thousands of rabbis and synagogues in the pre-Soviet era 50 years ago; today there are no Jewish schools, and some 40 or 50 rabbis, whose average age is 65, for a like number of synagogues. “Russian Jewry is today comparable to a man afflicted with a mortal illness that is destroying the whole fabric of the Judaic tradition,” he said.
“Jewish tradition,” he continued, “has known a few regimes that have imposed a total ban on Jewish cultural life; but none have succeeded as thoroughly as the Soviet Government in paralyzing the cultivation and transmission of the cultural tradition of the Jewish community under its sway. The atomization of Soviet Jews is without precedent in the experience of the Jewish people.
“For the first time in its history, the orderly perpetuation of the Jewish people will have been broken. In 10 or 15 years, it will be difficult to find within the Soviet Union a man capable of performing a Jewish burial ceremony, a Jewish wedding or a bar mitzvah, Prof. Goldhagen told the Conference.