NEW YORK (Jun. 15)
Rabbi Zev Segal of Newark, president of the Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox), today condemned a demonstration by an estimated 10,000 Orthodox Jews, many of them in Hasidic garb, in front of the Israeli Consulate here Thursday in protest against what they said were enforced autopsy procedures in Israel. “These demonstrators do not represent the Orthodox community,” Rabbi Segal said. “The large masses of our people look with disfavor upon them and dissociate themselves from them.”
Rabbi Segal regretted the timing of the demonstration, saying it came “at a time when Israel is faced with physical danger from an enemy whose purpose is to destroy the land and the people.” All Jewry must unite behind Israel, he said. “In a democratic society,” he added, “every one has the privilege of demonstrating for his ideas, but the world at large should be fully aware of how small a number these demonstrators truly represent.”
Demonstrators filled the sidewalk on Fifth Ave. near the mid-Manhattan consulate on East 70th St., with police closing the block to traffic for the demonstration. Leaflets distributed by the demonstrators said the protest was sponsored by the American Committee for Safeguarding Human Dignity in Israel. Speakers denounced autopsy procedures in Yiddish at the rally, which lasted about three hours. The demonstration followed months of newspaper, poster and pamphlet campaigning. Signs were stencilled on sidewalks and pavements to announce the demonstration.
Orthodox Jews, particularly Hasidim. have accused the Israel Government of permitting autopsies without consent of the family of the deceased. Autopsies can be performed in Israel hospitals only after three signatures are obtained from the hospital director and two qualified physicians in the event of foul play or a menace to public health. An Israeli Consulate spokesman said he met with the demonstrators and would convey their views to the Government.