1500 People in Protest Rally
Menu JTA Search

1500 People in Protest Rally

Download PDF for this date

Some 1500 people assembled today in angry protest against the trial of Soviet dissident Anatoly Shcharansky which began in Moscow today. The emergency rally, sponsored by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry (GNYCSJ) and the New York Committee to Free Anatoly Shcharansky, was held in Manhattan’s Garment Center to show solidarity with Shcharansky and with four other Soviet Jews whose trials will be taking place this month.

Mervin Riseman, chairman of the GNYCSJ, presided over the rally and announced that the Conference has called upon Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to postpone his scheduled meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in Geneva and has urged President Carter to recall Ambassador Malcolm Toon from Moscow for further consultations. “We will fight with every legitimate means at our disposal,” he declared. “There will be no escape for the Soviet Union, which must face the world’s wrath. The USSR will pay the price for these direct slaps at President Carter and the U.S. government.”

Dr. John Sawhill, president of New York University, noting that one-fifth of the world Jewish population is presently being “held hostage by the USSR,” said, “Our message to the Soviet Union must be clear. We will never again allow anti-Semitism to deprive Jews of their right to be free.”


Representing President Carter at the rally was Edward Mezvinsky, delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. He reported that Vance would deliver a letter from Carter to Gromyko intended for Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The letter, he said, will discuss the human rights question “with utmost gravity.”

Assessing the significance of the Shcharansky trial for Soviet-American relations, Mezvinsky said: “Shcharansky on trial puts the Soviet Union on trial whether we like it or not. The trial strains our relationship with the Soviet Union and poses obstacles to the development of detente.” Mezvinsky was presented with petitions containing more than 100,000 signatures of private individuals protesting the mistreatment of Shcharansky and other Soviet Jews.

Orville Schell, past president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, disclosed that he had been formally invited during his trip to Moscow last March to attend the Shcharansky trial as an observer. The invitation had been extended by Konstantin Apraksin, head of the Moscow Collegium of Lawyers, who was responsible for assigning a defense attorney to Shcharansky, However, Schell said, “that promise has been broken. Our obligation is to Keep the Russian bear’s feet to the fire until he releases Anatoly Shcharansky and other imprisoned persons.”

Carrying signs reading “Let My People Go,” “No More Show Trials” and “Will An Innocent Man Be Executed?” participants in the rally joined in singing “Am Yisrael Hai” (The People of Israel Lives), and the American and Israeli national anthems. Groups of young people scattered throughout the enthusiastic crowd danced energetically in spite of the intense afternoon heat.


Meanwhile, in Washington, a delegation from the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) met today with National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinsky to discuss the Shcharansky trial including its implications for international politics, the Soviet domestic scene and the future of U.S. Soviet relations. The participants included Dr. Jessica Tuchman Matthews and Gerrold Shacter of the White House staff; Stanley H. Lowell, NCSJ immediate past chairman, who headed the delegation comprising Theodore R. Mann, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Richard Maass, president of the American Jewish Committee, NCSJ executive director Jerry Goodman and NCSJ Washington representative Marina Wallach.

In New York, as chairman of the presidium and steering committee of the World Conference on Soviet Jewry, Leon Dulzin referred to President Carter’s denial of Shcharansky’s involvement with the CIA and stated that the trial is “a calculated insult to the President and an affront to enlightened public opinion throughout the world who see in Soviet actions a repudiation of ordinary human decency and compassion.”

Charlotte Jacobson, chairman of the World Zionist Organization-American Section and treasurer of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, reiterated Dulzin’s statement stating that Shcharansky “is innocent of the charges made against him and is being used in an obvious and unconvincing way by the Soviets.” She added that “every avenue and approach of the free world, particularly the United States government should be made to the Soviet government to secure his release.”

Mann, who is also chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, said: “Decent people everywhere are outraged at the flagrant misuse of a legal process to punish people for claiming rights that in any civilized country would be a matter of course. These attempts by the Soviet regime to intimidate the Soviet Jewry movement or turn it once again into being the Jews of silence will fail, because men and women of conscience will raise their voices to let Soviet Jews know that they do not stand alone.”

Maass said: “If, in fact, these trials end in convictions in spite of American protests and condemnations and widespread revulsion throughout the West, we trust that our government will engage in a total re-evaluation of its attitude toward the Soviet Union and our ability to cooperate with it in the whole spectrum of relationships between the two governments.”

In Montreal, External Affairs Minister Don Jamieson warned the Soviet Union today that the trial of Shcharansky will have a harmful influence on the future relations between Canada and the USSR. He stressed in a declaration in the House of Commons that Shcharansky’s trial is contrary to the Helsinki Agreement.

Hours before the Garment Center rally in New York, a fire bomb was thrown at the offices of the Soviet Intourist Agency in Rockefeller Center, a few blocks away. Police evacuated workers near the Intourist office. They said damage to the office was slight and no one was injured. A group identifying itself as the Jewish Armed Resistance claimed responsibility in a call to a news agency.

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