Hadassah Delegates Fast for Soviet Jewry; Call Emigration Rights Top Priority Issue

Over 2,000 Hadassah delegates who have been meeting here in a four-day national convention, began their final day today without breakfast. A fast in behalf of Soviet Jewry replaced breakfast. Rabbi Israel Miller, president of the American Zionist Federation, conducted the prayer service, and a display of the food served Soviet Jewish prisoners of conscience in the “Strict Regime” prison camps, where they are incarcerated, was displayed. Mrs. Max Matzkin. Hadassah Zionist Affairs chairman, presented a resolution on Soviet Jewry stating that “Hadassah considers the freedom of Soviet Jews to live as Jews at home or to emigrate to Israel a priority item on the Zionist agenda.” Rabbi Miller said that “Women have played an outstanding role in the continuing campaign by Soviet Jews within the Soviet Union for their Jewish identity and rights. The heroic names of the imprisoned Ruth Aleksandrovich, Raiza Palatnik and Sylva Zalmanson Kuznetsov are an inspiration to the thousands of Russian Jews who have become the major force in determining their own fate. The ten nameless Jewish women who demonstrated recently at the entrance of the Moscow Film Festival added their presence to the list of tens of women’s names that were inscribed on letters and petitions requesting visas for emigration to Israel. This is a truly Jewish Fem Lib movement to which we all subscribe. It marks the changed relationship of the Soviet Jews to their Jewishness and the best hope for their survival and the achievement of their goals.”

Prisoners in “strict regime” camps are given no sugar or fats and are not allowed to receive food parcels from the outside. The diet totals about 1,200 calories–half the daily requirement for a person at active labor–and is particularly low in fat and Vitamin A. Dr, Mary C. McLaughlin, New York City’s Health Commissioner, whose agency did an analysis of the diet, has charged that “the severe nutritional restrictions” in the Soviet Strict Regime prison camps “exact a heavy toll on the prisoners, leaving them open to skin and lung infections, muscle waste and mental breakdown,” She added that ” A health maintenance diet for a person at active labor, nine hours a day, in a cold climate, would require 2,800 calories.” Dr. Arnold Bender, noted English nutritionist at the University of London Medical School, likened this diet to that provided in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. “The purpose of such a diet is the same,” he said, “to weaken the mental and physical health of the inmates so as to destroy their will to live. This strict regime diet is, beyond a doubt, a deliberate attempt at slow death through starvation.” The Hadassah convention resolved that it will call upon its members to: engage in every appropriate action to influence the Soviet government to grant to its Jewish citizens the same rights with respect to their religion and cultural life as are accorded to other Soviet nationalities and religious groups; free the Jewish Prisoners of Conscience; stop the illegal arrests; and grant exit permits to the Jews who wish to go to Israel.

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