NEW YORK (May. 21)
Some 50 members of the militant Jewish Defense League ended without incident last night an occupation of the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan which they had taken over earlier in the day with the announced intention of staging a three-day “Liberation Seder” for Soviet Jewry. The Orthodox synagogue was chosen because it is directly across the street from the Soviet Mission. Rabbi Arthur Schneier said the peaceful exit came after he read to Rabbi Meir Kahane. leader of the JDL, a statement approved during the afternoon at an extraordinary meeting of the synagogue board. Rabbi Schneier said the JDL members did not interfere with the entrance into the synagogue of the board members. The statement declared that the synagogue had “a long record of deep concern for and responsible activity in behalf of our brethren in the Soviet Union but we strongly condemn this takeover of a House of God for the purpose of irresponsible actions.” The statement also said that “not only were we not informed of their intention to take over our building but we do not approve and strongly dissociate ourselves from violent protest.”
Rabbi Schneier told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the JDL had not asked for permission to enter the synagogue and had pushed aside executive director Julius Lifshutz when he protested their entry. “They invaded the building like thugs.” he said. The JDL members installed a loudspeaker, aimed at the Soviet Mission, to beam their demands for Soviet Jews at mission members. Rabbi Schneier said police had not been called in at any stage, though there were a number of policemen guarding the Soviet Mission. He told the JTA that, based on his personal knowledge of the situation of Soviet Jewry, he considered “violent actions” like the JDL takeover of the synagogue and the “breaking up of concerts” featuring Soviet artists “extremely harmful” to Soviet Jews. Rabbi Schneier said that he returned Just a few weeks ago from a visit to the Soviet Union. He is president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an interfaith group and he has visited the Soviet Union with Christian members to study the situation of Soviet Jews.