NEW YORK (Apr. 27)
Thousands braved intermittent showers and unseasonably cold weather today to march 10 blocks down Fifth Avenue and then east to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across from the United Nations, to demonstrate their support for Soviet Jewry.
The annual “Solidarity Sunday for Soviet Jewry,” sponsored for the ninth consecutive year by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry (GNYCSJ), has traditionally brought large turnouts of Jews and non-Jews, with men, women and young people from New England to Maryland marching with their synagogues, organizations and fraternal groups. Mervin Riseman, chairman of the GNYCSJ, estimated the turnout today at 100,000, despite the inclement weather. Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, spiritual leader of Manhattan’s Congregation Kehillath Jeshurun, who was chairman of “Solidarity Sunday,” looked at the dwindling crowd in the plaza as the rain poured down and declared, “Because you stand in the rain Soviet Jewry will have sunshine.” But he also promised that speeches would be short.
The marchers, who were led by a group wearing prison uniforms to represent Jewish Prisoners of Conscience in Soviet prisons and labor camps, carried banners with such slogans as “Don’t leave the others behind” and “For them the Red Sea has not yet parted.”
NOTES WORSENING SITUATION
Many carried placards showing the pictures of Jewish prisoners still being held in the USSR. There were many banners wishing a happy birthday to Ida Nudel, including one that was 12-feet high with 2000 signatures and was draped from a building in Hammarskjold Plaza.
For the first time a group representing the Jews of Ethiopia (Falashas) marched and waved banners urging that their brethren be rescued from Ethiopia so that they could live in Israel. Several speakers referred to the plight of the Falashas who are facing extermination.
The gray skies today also added to the somber note at this year’s demonstration as contrasted to the joyous affair in 1979. Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D. NY) pointed this out when he reminded the crowd that last year Solidarity Sunday came only a few days after five leading Soviet dissidents had been released in a trade with the U.S. for two convicted Soviet spies. Two of the freed men, Eduard Kuznetsov and Mark Dymshits participated in the 1979 parade and rally.
But this year Moynihan noted that the situation has gotten worse, with more persons being sent to jail or internal exile, including the Nobel Laureate Andrei Sakharov. Thousands here have signed a petition urging the U.S. Helsinki Monitoring Committee to protest at the upcoming Madrid Conference on the Helsinki agreements the “treatment” of Sakharov as well as Igor Guberman, Anatoly Shcharansky and other Soviet Jews “who languish in Soviet jails.”
Riseman and others pointed out that emigration visas have dropped 35 percent since January and Soviet authorities have been making it more difficult to get visas on the grounds that applicants lack close relatives in Israel.
ALL SOVIET JEWS MUST EMIGRATE
The theme today was that the demonstrations would continue until all Soviet Jews can emigrate. “We will be here in United Nations Plaza if it takes another century,” Moynihan declared. This was echoed by Sen. Jacob Javits (R. NY), who said it was a “struggle for the ages.” New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams, a former chairman of the GNYCSJ, said the large turnout in the rain demonstrates to the USSR that Americans will continue to work for the struggle of Soviet Jewry.
Charlotte Jacobson, chairman of the World Zionist Organization-American Section and vice chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, noted that groups throughout the world are working in support of Soviet Jewry. She said they have to demonstrate to the Soviet Union their determination to continue the struggle despite the “ups and downs” of the situation.
The ongoing Presidential campaign was evident at today’s demonstration, although the only candidate actually present was Rep. John Anderson (R.Ill.), who announced last week he was going to run as an independent. “No person is truly free until all marking is free,” Anderson declared. He added that “we are all Prisoners of Conscience as long as someone is denied their basic right to emigrate.”
He said that American leaders should make it clear to the USSR that they will not receive trade or other economic benefits from the United States until it allows Jews and others to emigrate.
A similar position was taken by Sen. Robert Dole (R.Kan.), who represented Republican Presidential front-runner Ronald Reagan. He said that detente should never have been undertaken with the Soviet Union while they deny human rights. “Lives are more important than business deals,” he declared.
MESSAGE FROM CARTER
Riseman, meanwhile, said he was “deeply disappointed” that for the first time since President Carter took office in 1977 he did not send an Administration spokesman to the rally. But Mayor Edward Koch, who has participated in all nine marches as a Congressman and then as Mayor of New York, said he was the President’s spokesman.
The mayor read a message from Carter in which the President noted that more than 100,000 Jews have left the USSR in the last three years. Carter noted that half of them came to the U.S. where they have received help while those who went to Israel also received U.S. aid. The Carter message stressed that Americans must continue to work to “arouse the conscience of the world” to the plight of those denied human rights, including Soviet Jews.
When Koch read Carter’s message there was a great deal of jeering from the audience. The audience also jeered when Sargent Shriver, brother-in-law of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D. Mass.) mode what many considered a political speech in favor of Kennedy’s Presidential candidacy. He noted Kennedy’s efforts in bringing several leading Soviet Jews out of the USSR.
Gov. Hugh Carey of New York said a message must be sent to Moscow that the Holocaust will not be allowed to happen again. “We must not allow oppression and terrorism to grow on this earth,” he said. He accused the Soviet Union of instigating terrorism by supplying arms to Syria which is then given to the terrorists in the Middle East.
Many of the speakers also noted the hostage situation in Iran in their remarks. Lookstein offered a prayer for the 50 American hostages in Teheran as well as the eight American servicemen who died last week while trying to rescue them. The El Mole Rachamim was chanted in memory of those who died in the Holocaust and Israel’s war dead.