Rally by Three Major Faiths on Behalf of Soviet Jewry Draws Thousands

Several thousand persons converged on the nation’s capital today for a mass meeting tonight on behalf of Soviet Jewry. National leaders of the three major faiths and leading figures on the political, labor, civic and civil rights scenes were to participate. The event, sponsored by the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, is to be held in the Washington National Cathedral, which seats 2,500 but has held as many as 5,000 for a Vietnam Moratorium rally. By press time, the speakers’ list included Sen. Jacob K. Javits, New York Republican; Sen. Abraham A. Ribicoff, Connecticut Democrat; Sen. Richard S. Schwelker, Pennsylvania Republican; Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr., Maryland Republican; Bishop Stephen Gill Spottswood, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Dr. David Hunter, Deputy Director General of the National Council of Churches, and Jerry Wurf, president of the American Federation of State. County and Municipal Workers AFL-CIO. Rabbi Richard Hirsch, director of religious action for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and co-chairman of the meeting, noted that 33 young Soviet Jews have been held incommunicado for five months and “face the imminent prospect of show trials and severe punishment.”

Rabbi Hirsch added: “This is an issue of the denial of human rights. Their only crime is that they want to live as Jews or be allowed to leave the Soviet Union.” The first show trial of nine Soviet Jews, scheduled for last Friday, has been postponed to Dec. 15. Seymour Wolfe, president of the Jewish Community Council and co-chairman of the meeting, said: “This is a Jewish case. These people are on trial for their convictions. These people are being persecuted as Jews, and their only desire is not to subvert the Soviet system but to leave it.” Sen. Schweiker, in remarks prepared for delivery tonight, declared: “The time to raise our voices is right now…The Jewish experience in Europe, from medieval times up to modern times, should be warning enough for us about what is happening now inside the Soviet Union.” Noting that it was American religious freedom that brought his ancestors of the Pennsylvania Dutch Schwenkfelder (Protestant) sect to this country in the 1700s, Sen. Schweiker asserted that “The history of other countries compels us to be on guard for injustice and oppression based on religion.” He called on the USSR to “cease its harassment of Jewish citizens and permit all those Jews to emigrate who desire to do so.” The 44-year-old Senator, who was elected in 1968, added: “For the Jews that will remain, the Soviet Union must improve the religious and cultural climate for them. It is time that the Soviet Union joined us on the side of humanity and on the side of mankind.”

NEXT STORY