NEW YORK (Aug. 9)
The American Jewish Congress appealed today to President Nixon to approve Voice of America broadcasts in Yiddish to Soviet Jews, asserting that such broadcasts would “reflect the concern of the Government of the United States with their welfare.” Although the State Department and the United States Information Agency oppose such broadcasts, it was reported that the final decision will be up to the President. In a letter to him, AJCongress executive director Will Maslow said State Department and U.S.I.A. claims of difficult technical problems in reaching the entire Soviet Jewish community–because it was scattered over a huge geographical area–were “only superficially accurate.” He told the President 90 percent of Soviet Jews lived within two Western time zones. Approximately 1.6 million Soviet Jews lived in Russia and Ukraina alone. Maslow wrote, adding: “The distribution of the overwhelming majority of the Jewish population in the Soviet Union poses no insurmountable technical difficulties to the institution of Voice of America Yiddish broadcasts to the Soviet Union.” The American Jewish Congress director questioned State Department and U.S.I.A. claims that starting such broadcasts would require the acquisition of additional transmitters, boosting broadcasting costs.
“Hard evidence points to the fact that existing VOA transmitters in Europe are unused during significant periods of time. By using VOA transmitters efficiently, the direct additional cost of instituting VOA broadcasting in Yiddish would be minimal,” he wrote. Maslow also took issue with a State Department claim that only a “small number” of Soviet Jews spoke Yiddish and that those who did also spoke another language in which the Voice of America already broadcast, thereby making Yiddish broadcasts redundant. He cited the official 1970 census which stated that 17.7 percent of Soviet Jews, or 380,000, named Yiddish as their mother tongue, “In addition,” he wrote, “28.8 percent of the Soviet Union’s Jews named a language other than Russian as a second language which they spoke fluently. One can safely assume that in many cases Yiddish was indeed that second language. It follows that 600,000 Jews and quite possibly more were fluent in Yiddish in 1970.” The AJCongress spokesman wrote that he know of the President’s “deep understanding and concern” for the situation of Soviet Jewry. “I know you are aware that all the major American Jewish organizations have been careful in their protests concerning Soviet Jewry not to endanger in any way your efforts to achieve a sane detente with the Soviet Union on arms limitation and other Issue vital to the survival of the human race.”