Koch to Nixon: Help Break Curtain of Silence Concerning Soviet Jews
Menu JTA Search

Koch to Nixon: Help Break Curtain of Silence Concerning Soviet Jews

Download PDF for this date

President Nixon “must help break the iron curtain of silence concerning Soviet Jewry when he visits Moscow.” Rep. Edward I. Koch (D.N.Y.) told the 1972 national convention of the Workmen’s Circle meeting here. Koch last night urged the President to reveal publicly whether the question of Soviet Jews was on the agenda of his projected Soviet talks. He also urged Nixon to “ask to visit the families of those who have been imprisoned after the Leningrad, Kiev and Kishinev trials,”

The Congressman suggested that when the President visits Warsaw after his Moscow Journey that he “go to the site of the Warsaw Ghetto so that he can be reminded, and remind other world leaders, what happens when the free world remains silent or plays politics with the destinies of those under totalitarian repression.” Stating that the question of Soviet Jews “is not an internal issue for the Soviets but has become a world issue of conscience,” Koch told the 1000 delegates that “how the President handles or does not handle this issue in Moscow is of vital importance to the democratic communities of the world.”


At an earlier session, Bernard Backer, outgoing president, said that the Soviet Union had a two-fold obligation to carry out for its Jewish citizens: “The right for them to emigrate to Israel or any other land of their choice, and the right to live and survive within Soviet borders without recrimination or oppression or discrimination because they are Jews.”

He also said that “there must be more than one road for migration for Soviet Jews.” He declared that “however fortunate we are that Israel is there to receive new Jewish immigrants, we still cannot live with the fact that Jews are welcome only in Israel.”

In a message to the convention, Nixon lauded “the humanitarian efforts” of the fraternal organization, adding that its “constructive influence is felt in major urban centers of the United States and Canada.” He said he applauded “the contributions you have made to the well-being of countless men and women and to the free labor movement of the world.”

William Stern, executive secretary of the Workmen’s Circle, told the delegates that the organization has assets of more than $13.4 million and that their 55,000 members from 24 states and the two major cities of Canada hold insurance coverage of more than $30 million. “This,” said Stern”, is phenomenal in an era of rising costs and declining organizational memberships.” Stern also stated that “our Jewish cultural activities, a new awareness by Jewish youth that one can have a sense of social Justice without surrendering to totalitarian dogmas, and the fact that in the medical and social service field we had pioneered where others are now first finding fertile fields, are contributing to our stabilized position,”

Another group of Jewish emigres from the Soviet Union arrived in Tel Aviv last night, among them several activists. The new arrivals included Vladimir Machlis, 28, whose brother, Leonid, staged a hunger strike in NY recently in support of Vladimir’s demand for an exit visa.

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