Soviet Merchant Ship Captain Ruffled by Group Expressing Concern for Soviet Jews

Six Jewish leaders left the captain’s cabin of the Soviet freighter Ostrogozhek when the skipper became incensed over their attempt to involve him in the problems of Soviet Jewry. Asked to convey their “concern” to Soviet leaders, the captain angrily exclaimed, “I refuse to discuss political questions. This is a merchant ship. Go to the Embassy in Washington. Your speeches I don’t like.” The six visitors were Joel Brooks, Northern California director of the American Jewish Congress; Harold Light, chairman of the Bay Area Council on Soviet Jewry; Lawrence Goldberg, chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, Marin and the Peninsula; Roland Elefant, chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Alameda and Contra Costa; Ephraim Margolin, president of AJ Congress’ Northern California division, and Robert Gladnick. AJ Congress official and area director for Histadrut, who acted as spokesman for the group and spoke to the captain in Russian.

Mr. Goldberg commented later that despite the anger of the skipper, “We are sure that he got the message.” He said the captain was “understandably reluctant to discuss political matters.” The Ostrogozhek was only the second Soviet freighter here in the past 22 years. Dr. Jerome Westin, chairman of the Soviet Jewry Action Group, and 18-year-old Kenneth Schachter were arrested by the Coast Guard after spraying the freighter from a rowboat with a Mogen David and the statement “Let the Jews Out!” after the six-man delegation was rebuffed by the captain. They were charged with malicious mischief and released on their own recognizance. Action Group pickets marched along the pier with signs reading “Let Them Be Free,” “Russia is a Prison for Jews” and “Let Them Live as Jews or Leave as Jews.” This was the group’s fourth protest against visiting Russians.

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