NEW YORK (Dec. 27)
Jewish and non-Jewish leaders in the metropolitan area and across the nation denounced the Soviet authorities for handing down death sentences against two Jews and expressed shock and anger at the severity of the sentences against the nine other defendants in the Leningrad 11 trial. Rabbi Harold I. Saperstein, president of the New York Board of Rabbis called for a national day of prayer for the defendants. He termed the death sentences "the ultimate expression of the repressive policies of the Soviet Union toward the Jewish population," and urged the civilized world to condemn the sentences as an "act of barbarism." Mrs. Max Schenk, president of Hadassah, urged the Soviet High Court "to reverse this decision and let these people go" in the spirit of the "socialist ideals to which the Soviet Union professes allegiance." Mrs. Schenk added, "In the name of justice and human decency we appeal to the Soviet Union; Do not add to the list of martyrs by yet another cynical miscarriage of justice." The Rev. Eugene Carson Blake, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, issued a statement appealing to all governments to consider pardon and amnesty for the Leningrad defendants, the Basques in Spain and the blacks on Robbins Island in South Africa. Senator Jacob K. Javits, New York Republican, sent a telegram to Secretary of State William P. Rogers urging the United States to protest to the government of the Soviet Union against the "barbaric sentences."
Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld of Cleveland, president of the American Jewish Congress, called on President Nixon, Pope Paul and the World Council of Churches to intercede with the Soviet authorities. Dr. William A. Wexler, president of B’nai B’rith, asserted that the refusal of the Soviet Union to permit foreign newsmen to cover the trial and evidence surrounding the arrests "indicates that this was a case of entrapment for political reasons." Rabbi Gilber Klapperman, chairman of the New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, announced that prayer meetings have been scheduled today in synagogues throughout the country on behalf of the condemned prisoners. Public demonstrations and mass meetings are scheduled for tonight and throughout the rest of the week in major cities across the nation. A 100-hour vigil is scheduled to begin tonight near the Soviet Mission in New York. The vigil is being coordinated by the Ecumenical Council Against Religious Persecution, Betar, the Jewish Defense League and the Havurah, The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry sponsored a protest march last night through Times Square. The marchers carried a five-foot Chanukah menorah. In Washington, over the weekend, some 300 Jews demonstrated in front of the Soviet Embassy. They burned a Soviet flag and carried a scaffold with a Jewish prayer shawl hung through a noose. On Christmas eve, five members of the JDL and two others were arrested after they eluded police barriers at the Soviet Mission in New York and made their way to the upper terraces of the Park East Synagogue across the street.
The Jewish activists, led by JDL chairman Rabbi Meir Kahane, shouted threats and slogans at the Consulate and chanted in Hebrew. Larry Fine, JDL executive director, said the group had "taken possession" of the synagogue, and added but declined to elaborate that "no Russian individuals or installations in this city" were safe from JDL "from now on." The New York police were instructed by officials to prevent any demonstrations at the Soviet and Polish offices and to be on guard to prevent "any damage or unlawful trespassing." Leaders of nine "progressive Jewish organizations and publications" called on Anatoly F. Dobrynin, the Soviet Ambassador to the United States, to act to help rescind the sentences. "The extremity of the verdicts has shocked many supporters of peace, coexistence and socialism," they stated in a cable to the ambassador in Washington. Among the signers of the cable were the editors of Freiheit, Jewish Currents, the American Federation for Polish Jews, and the Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women’s Clubs. Many of these signers have been associated with support to one degree or another of the Soviet Union. Some 50 members of the SSSJ, accompanied by four rabbis carrying two coffins filled with petitions protesting the trial, marched Thursday evening to the Soviet Mission and attempted to present the petitions to Soviet officials. The officials refused to accept them. The Workmen’s Circle cabled Rogers to urge him to "request an emergency session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to protest the trial and sentences of the Leningrad Jews charged and sentenced in violation of the UN Charter."