NEW YORK (Jun. 9)
Over 700 students picketed the Metropolitan Museum yesterday demanding that its director, Thomas Having, intercede with Soviet officials to bring about the release of Anatoly Sharansky, the Soviet Jewish activist charged with treason who faces the death penalty. The students from Manhattan’s Ramaz School, ranging in age from six to 18, who were carrying signs calling for Sharansky’s release and chanting Hebrew songs, filled the sidewalks in front of the museum, which is featuring an historic exhibit of Russian and Soviet art.
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, spiritual leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and vice-chairman of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, who led the students out of the Jewish day school, said, “We will not abide cultural exchange while the Soviet Jews are undergoing the most brutal repression since Stalin…. We are demonstrating one week before the opening of the Belgrade conference to review Soviet compliance with the Helsinki accords, in which 35 nations pledged to remove human rights violations in their countries.”
Recent protests in New York, as well as the upcoming rally on Friday June 10 at noon at Aeroflot, the Soviet airlines, are designed to pressure the Soviets to drop charges against Sharansky as they have in the cases of at least three other Jewish activists in the last eight months.
In Chicago, the co-leaders of the National Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry, a group of Catholics, Jews, Evangelicals, Orthodox and Protestants, appealed to President Carter this week to intercede with Soviet leaders at the highest level to release Sharansky. Prof. Andre Lacocque Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum and Sister Margaret Traxler urged religious, ethnic and human rights groups to join in this protest to Soviet officials, as one sign of their compliance with the Helsinki accords.
The Task Force statement said: “As a Jew, Sharansky can be further abused to focus the anti-Semitic strands of Soviet society, whose leaders callously employ anti-Semitism as a sociological device to distract the attention of their own peoples from internal problems or policy failures. At Belgrade, it seems, they will resort to the same ruse to attempt to divert world attention from their failure to honor the Helsinki accords.”