Telephoning Soviet Jews Turns out to Be a Hassle
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Telephoning Soviet Jews Turns out to Be a Hassle

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In a dramatic test of the Soviet Union’s compliance with the spirit of detente and international telecommunications, a group of well-known New Yorkers tried to place calls to Jewish activists in the USSR, But only three of the 25 calls went through. The event, which was sponsored by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, was also aimed at the forthcoming meeting between President Ford and Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev at the European Security Conference in Helsinki, Finland.

Various excuses were given by Soviet operators why the calls did not get through. One operator told GNYCSJ chairman Eugene Gold, in the midst of their conversation, that she could no longer speak English. All of the persons called were notified in advance, according to the GNYCSJ.


One of the calls that did get through was to mathematician Dr. Ilya Piatetsky-Shapiro, whose phone had been disconnected for over a year. He urged pianist David Bar Ilan to “continue your efforts as much as possible to help us.”

Isaak Tsitberblit told a New York television reporter that “You don’t know how difficult it is for us to be alone here under such circumstances It is only possible to continue because of your concern and help.” Ilya Uchitel told City Councilman Howard Golden that he lost his job after applying for his visa and that he is now forced to do menial labor to avoid arrest for parasitism.

The New York participants also spoke on the telephone to relatives of Soviet Jews now in Israel who described their difficulty in communicating with those they left behind.

Margy-Ruth Davis, coordinator of the event, said “The cut-off of phone communications, an increase in the number of trials of Jews, the excessive tax on charity funds and a sharp decline in recent months in Soviet Jews emigration combine to underscore the growing magnitude of the plight of vast numbers of Jews and the relentless campaign of harassment and oppression being waged against them by the Soviet government.”

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