2,000 Demonstrators Demand ‘free Kishinev Nine’; 1903 Kishinev Pogrom Recalled
Menu JTA Search

2,000 Demonstrators Demand ‘free Kishinev Nine’; 1903 Kishinev Pogrom Recalled

Download PDF for this date

The cry of “Am Yisroel Chai,” and “Free the Kishinev Nine,” reverberated along the boardwalk in Brighton Beach as some 2,000 persons representing congregations. Yeshivas, Jewish civic organizations and university student groups gathered at this Brooklyn residential and resort community this afternoon to denounce the persecution of Soviet Jews. In an impassioned speech, Rabbi Steven Riskin, spiritual leader of the Lincoln Square Synagogue and chairman of the Center for Soviet Jewry, declared that the Jews of the Soviet Union are “no longer afraid.” They will “live as Jews, leave as Jews or die as Jews.” Referring to the trial of nine Jews in Kishinev scheduled to begin June 21, Rabbi Riskin broke out into a chant: “Free the Kishinev Nine. Free the Kishinev Nine. The massacre of 1903 cannot be allowed to repeat itself in 1971. Am Yisroel Chai.” Stating that during the Kishinev pogrom of 1903 the world was silent, he declared: “The world was silent during the (Menahem Mendel) Beilis trial (in 1913). And it was silent during the tragedy of six million lives lost where everyone was afraid. The Pope was afraid. The State Department was afraid. President Roosevelt was afraid. We must say with the Russian Jews, we are not afraid. The 2,000 persons responded as one: “Am Yisroel Chai.” Rabbi Riskin carried this forward. “The people of Israel live-with or without us. But it is up to us to show our solidarity with the Soviet Jews.” The demonstration and rally for Soviet Jewry was sponsored by the Oceanfront Council for Soviet Jewry.

Religious and political leaders-Jewish and non-Jewish-denounced the Soviet Union for its persecution of Soviet Jewry and called for continued efforts to alleviate the plight of Russian Jewry. Rep. Bertram Podell, New York Democrat, recently returned from a six-day trip to the Soviet Union, declared “And now I can tell you how it feels to spend six days in jail.” He said he had been followed by Soviet secret police night and day, his luggage had been searched and his room bugged. He said he had smuggled documents out of the Soviet Union in his shoes and underwear, some of which will be made public within the next few weeks. Wherever he went and with whatever Jews he spoke to, Podell said, he was told “If we can’t live as Jews, we don’t want to live.” Only the President and Secretary (of State William P.) Rogers can help, he said. They must speak out strongly and publicly against what is happening in the Soviet Union. “Let no one go to sleep tonight,” he concluded “without having sent a letter to Rogers and Nixon urging them to speak out.” Rep. Edward I, Koch, New York Democrat, denounced the “harsh treatment” being given to Ruth Aleksandrovich. Koch called upon the “nations of the civilized world to denounce the Soviet Union for its barbarism.” He compared this “barbarism” with that committed by the Czarist government against the pre-1917 revolutionaries–treatment now recalled with horror by the Soviets.

Rabbi Dr. Joseph I. Singer of the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center, spoke of the youths who grew up in the Soviet Union without Jewish education who developed a love for Israel. “In the past,” he commented, “Jews said they wanted to go to Israel to join their families. Now they say they want to go to Israel because this is our natural homeland.” John Hayes, Deputy Borough President, representing Borough President Sebastian Leone who was out of town, proclaimed today “Sunday, June 6, 1971 as Demonstration Day for Soviet Jewry in Brooklyn.” A letter of greeting was read from Senator Jacob K. Javist, New York Republican. The crowd of 2,000 was more than three times as large as expected, according to Glenn Richter, national coordinator of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, who said he was “pleased at the successful turnout for a neighborhood function.” The demonstrators marched to the rallying point from two opposite points. One beginning from the Trump Village Cooperative Shopping Center, the other from Manhattan Beach. Both units were led by marching bands and preceded by huge portraits of Ruth Aleksandrovich. The marchers carried photographs of convicted Leningrad defendants and homemade signs reading “Don’t Sit On Your Hands or Russian Jews Will Be On Their Knees.” “Stop The Trials,” “Freedom Now,” “Stamp Out Silence,” “Save Soviet Jewry,” “Survival Means Sacrifice” and “Let Them Live Or Let Them Leave.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund