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Rally for Soviet Jewry

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A “Freedom Bus” delegation of 60 Jews staged well-publicized protest demonstrations Tuesday outside the Soviet Embassy and Parliament House in Canberra. The delegation called on the Australian government to protest to the Soviet Union over the recent increase in repressive measures by the Soviet authorities against Jewish activists.

The bus had brought the 60 Jews to Canberra from Melbourne, 450 miles south of the national capital. After a prayer service outside the Soviet Embassy led by Rabbi Ellis Sultanik of Melbourne’s Northeast Jewish Community Center, the shofar was blown and a symbolic procession marched seven times around the embassy buildings. The demonstrators were unable to present a petition carrying some 20,000 signatures to the Soviet Embassy officials who refused all requests for communication with them.

The protestors were well received by parliamentarians of all parties from the House of Representatives and the Senate and were supported by letters of sympathy from the Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, the leader of the opposition, Gough Whitlam and the Deputy Prime Minister Douglas Anthony. Sen. Peter Baume presented a letter from the demonstrators to Foreign Affairs Minister Andrew Peacock which called on Australia to protest to Moscow over the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union.

In response to the protest, William Went-worth, a Liberal Party backbencher, called for a parliamentary committee to approach the Soviet Embassy in Canberra for details of the religious status of Jews in the Soviet Union.

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