NEW YORK (Dec. 21)
Rabbi Herschel Schacter, chairman of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, denounced the Jewish Defense League today for “irresponsible” behavior at yesterday’s midtown march for Soviet Jewry. “We condemn the violent tactics of the Jewish Defense League in attempting to crash police barriers at the Soviet Jewish rally,” Rabbi Schacter declared, adding that “in fomenting this confrontation with the police–resulting in both injuries and arrests–the JDL played into the hands of the Kremlin by diverting public attention from the real crime: the repression of Jewish life in the USSR.” The Jewish leader said that “in seeking to turn this powerful and peaceful expression of concern for Soviet Jewry into an ugly incident with the police, the JDL has earned the contempt of all persons who hold dear the cause of human freedom.” Twelve persons were arrested and five hospitalized yesterday when JDL members and sympathizers broke through police lines in an attempt to picket on the sidewalk in front of the Soviet Mission.
Larry Fine, JDL executive director, told the JTA today that the breakthrough was engineered by “500 to 1,000” young Jews, 100 of them JDL members, “who have grown tired of the do-nothingness of the American Conference” and who were “attempting to exercise their constitutional rights to picket.” On being prevented by the police from approaching the Mission, there was “a rush through the barricades by JDL and non-JDL students,” Fine explained, adding that “tens” of the dissidents joined the JDL “on the spot.” Fine said that Jewish leaders who decry JDL actions as inimical to the welfare of Soviet Jews “do not know the facts.” He said that according to JDL sources, which he called more accurate than those of the major Jewish organizations, JDL actions are endorsed by “every young and old Zionist Jew in the Soviet Union.” He added: “The Soviet Jewish issue has become the Soviet Jewish cause.”
The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, a participant in yesterday’s march, said today that the “violence” precipitated by the JDL was “unacceptable and diversionary,” adding: “We are fighting the Russians, not the police.” National coordinator Glenn Richter told the JTA that the JDL would continue to act the way it did yesterday unless “our own Jewish leaders” take “a much more vigorous leadership in the battle for Soviet Jewry” by means of a “large-scale, systematic effort” in its behalf. “Merely to condemn does not solve the basic problem,” Richter said. Rabbi Schacter declared in his statement that the impact of the 10,000-person “massive demonstration of support” for Soviet Jews was diminished as “the ensuing press coverage tended to focus on (the JDL) instead of the issue.” As a result, he continued. “Those who provoked the encounter with the police have performed a singular disservice to the courageous Soviet Jews who are crying out for responsible support from their brethren in the free world.” They include, he noted, the Soviet Jews on trial in Leningrad on “trumped-up charges” that will not “deceive” or “intimidate” Soviet Jewry and the free world.