TEL AVIV (Jun. 23)
Dr. Nahum Goldmann told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview here today that he strongly condemned and deplored catcalls and jeers directed at Rabbi Yehuda Leib Levin of Moscow by some members of the audience at the rabbi’s first public appearance in New York last Wednesday night. Dr. Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress and former president of the World Zionist Organization, said such action was a violation of human decency and Jewish tradition which enjoins Jews not to judge a fellow man before putting himself in that person’s position.
Rabbi Levin, whose trip to the United States is sponsored by the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism, was heckled at Hunter College when he denied the existence of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union.
“That demonstration showed a lack of understanding for the delicate position of Soviet Jewry and especially for the position of Rabbi Levin who is trying under difficult circumstances to maintain Jewish religious life in Russia,” Dr. Goldmann said. “It did great harm to the strenuous efforts that have been going on for years to establish contact between Soviet Jewry and Jewish communities outside of the Soviet Union!” Dr. Goldmann added that while he wished that the rabbi’s American visit was not sponsored by a small anti-Israel group in the U.S., it was nevertheless an important precedent “which I hope and pray will be followed up by other contacts with more representative groups of world Jewry.”
The Laborite daily newspaper, Lamerhav also deplored the demonstration against Rabbi Levin but noted that because he cannot say what he wishes to say, he cannot be regarded as representing Russian Jewry but is “a tragic tool in the hands of anti-Zionists, both in Russia and in the U.S.”
(In Britain, Sir Barnett Janner, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the board today that the picture of conditions of Soviet Jewry being outlined by Rabbi Levin was no more accurate than similar reports presented by Soviet officials to the Board of Deputies.
(The American Jewish Congress in a statement released in New York, denounced the “disorderly and discourteous treatment” of Rabbi Levin at Hunter College. The statement said that Rabbi Levin, as a guest, was “entitled to have his say no matter how profoundly we disagree with him.” It added: “The facts of official Soviet discrimination against Jewish cultural and religious life in the USSR are well established. We recognized that the conditions of Rabbi Levin’s visit make it impossible for him to be forthright and candid in his description of the plight of Soviet Jewry.”
(The Washington Post, in an editorial, denounced New York Jews for having “behaved scandalously” at Rabbi Levin’s public appearance. The paper said the hecklers used a tactic that “has no proper place In this country.”)