2,000 Public School, Yeshiva Students Leave Classes to Hold Strike for Soviet Jewry

More than 2,000 high school, college and yeshiva students left their classrooms today to participate in a student strike for Soviet Jewry. The strike, called to protest the treatment of Soviet Jews and the current and upcoming trials, culminated in a rally at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations Headquarters. The students waved placards calling for the right of Jews to emigrate, raised clenched fists, and chanted. “Freedom Now.” Earlier, leaders of the ad hoc committee, Student Strike for Soviet Jewry, which sponsored the strike and which included the Jewish High School Student Alliance, the New York Union of Jewish Students, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, the American Conference on Soviet Jewry and the New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, received greetings of solidarity from Mayor John V. Lindsay, Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, and Conservative Senator James L. Buckley. During the rally, Rabbi Steven Riskin, spiritual leader of the Lincoln Square Synagogue, declared that “It is 25 years since six million Jews were killed and the world was silent. Once again, the world is silent.” Rabbi Riskin stated that the United States government had been asked to allow the Voice of America to begin beaming Yiddish language programs into the Soviet Union “and we have only gotten silence.”

In his message to the strike leaders, Rockefeller stated that the “demonstrations for Soviet Jewry are registering a deep humanitarian concern. By demonstrating this concern, and focusing public attention on the plight of Jews in Russia, you are demonstrating a compassion for mankind with which all Americans can sympathize.” Lindsay, in his message, noted that “The primary issue is the right of the Jews of the Soviet Union to live as Jews and to emigrate to Israel and other countries. But in the larger sense, the issue is universal and is concerned with the dignity of man and his right to freedom and justice under any system of government.” Buckley stated that he “commends individuals and groups in New York taking a stand on this issue, and peacefully and constructively calling attention to what can and should be done to help Jews and other religious minorities subject to persecution in the Soviet Union.” Many of the students participating in the strike were doing so with their principal’s “blessings” who cancelled classes in deference to their wishes, while others were “playing hockey.” Following the rally, students were scheduled to march to the Soviet Mission.

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