NEW YORK (Jun. 23)
Mary Travers, of the singing group “Peter, Paul and Mary,” said this week, after returning from a ten-day trip to the Soviet Union, that the mood among Soviet Jews was “very anxious.”
Travers, who visited the Soviet Union and then Israel within the past month, addressed a meeting of the board of governors of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) held at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) headquarters.
The Anti-Zionist Committee “had just been formed a month before we arrived,” Travers told a group of reporters after the meeting. “They had released a paper in Moscow and Leningrad, and everyone was talking about it,” she said. “No one really knew what direction this new organization was going to take.”
Two days after she returned to the United States, the Committee released a statement that all Jews who wanted to emigrate had done so already, she said. “This was fascinating to me since the 80 or so souls that I had met were still there.”
Travers’ trip, which included meetings in Moscow and Leningrad with Soviet Jews who had applied for exit visas was sponsored by the NCSJ. She was accompanied by Rabbi David Saperstein, Washington representative of the UAHC, and Albert Vorspan, vice president of the Union, and his wife.
Travers and her group met with refuseniks and at times spoke “hours and hours” about Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, President Reagan, Israel and the like, Saperstein said. He and Travers also performed in many homes and at the U.S. Embassy. By the end of the trip, Travers said, she was “singing in Hebrew.”
A few days after returning to the United States, Travers travelled with the other two members of her singing group, Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey to Israel. Appearing before an audience of more than 8000 at Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem, Travers dedicated two songs to the Jewish refuseniks, “Sweet Survivor” and “Dodi Li.” She also spoke there with relatives of those she had met in the Soviet Union. “It was very moving, this kind of link,” she said.
She met a “broad range” of people in the USSR she said, “with no unified sense of one opinion. What bound them together was that they were a community.” But “it is very difficult to function as a community when you have to go to the comer to make a phone call,” she added.
Speaking into a microphone for Radio Free Liberty, which is heard inside the Soviet Union, Travers said to those she called her “friends;” “I miss you.”