Leaders of National Jewish Women’s Groups Rebuffed in Effort to Hand Dobrynin Letter on Soviet Jews

A Soviet Embassy staff member refused entrance today to three leaders of national Jewish women’s organizations and rejected their letter on behalf of Soviet Jews addressed to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. The rebuff was witnessed by leaders of five other national Jewish women’s groups and five New York Democratic Congressmen. The women who tried to present the letter were Mrs. David Leavitt, president of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, Mrs. Harry Stein, vice-president of Pioneer Women and Mrs. Howard Levine, president of the American Jewish Congress women’s division.

The unidentified Embassy staff member told them “you cannot come in. You did not telegraph in advance. We will take no letter. Go to the post office or the telegraph office.” Across the street, awaiting the outcome of the approach, the top officials of the Leadership Conference of National Jewish Women’s Organizations, B’nai B’rith Women, National Council of Jewish Women, National Women’s League of the United Synagogue of America, and the American Women’s Organization for ORT stood by silently. The representatives were Edward I. Koch, William Ryan, James Scheuer, Jonathan Bingham and John Dow.

The letter said that the signers wanted to talk to Dobrynin “to discuss” the treatment of “Jewish prisoners of conscience” in the Soviet Union, but that “neither you nor any responsible official of the Soviet government would agree to meet with us. We are therefore forced to deliver this to the Embassy in the hope that it will find its way to the proper officials.” Koch told newsmen he advocated daily protests at every Soviet installation “to make it clear that Americans, Christians and non-Christians, condemn what is happening in the Soviet Union.”

Koch challenged a police officer, Lt. E.J. White, when he asked the group of 100 persons to move off the sidewalk in compliance with a District of Columbia statute against demonstrations against a foreign government within 500 feet of its Embassy building. He asked the officer to mark out the distance and to “check it with your lawyers before you arrest me.” He added that he considered the statute unconstitutional. After the rebuff at the Embassy, the Jewish women leaders went to the United States Information Agency to ask that the letter to Dobrynin be broadcast to the Soviet Union. They then went to the State Department to ask US officials to protest to the Soviet government over its bans on Jewish emigration to Israel. Scheuer, who said he met privately with Secretary of State William P. Rogers, said the Secretary was sympathetic to the plight of Soviet Jews. He said he hoped that with Rogers’ “intervention, we can have a new policy at the US Information Agency,” which operates the Voice of America. The VOA has refused to broadcast in Yiddish to Soviet Jews.

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