12,000 People March for Soviet Jewry

An estimated 12,000 people participated today in Britain’s largest-ever demonstration for Soviet Jewry. The protestors, forming a two-mile column, marched to the Soviet Embassy with a petition expressing “deep concern about our brethren in the Soviet Union.” The marchers included Jewish leaders from more than 16 countries.

The petition, drawn up by the National Council for Soviet Jewry, and signed by leading British writers, religious leaders and actors, noted “with dismay that barely a month after attending an international conference in Madrid and joining 34 nations in a firm commitment to respect human rights, the Soviet Union has gone back on its word and launched a new campaign of repression against human activists. We protest at the savage sentence meted out two weeks ago to losif Begun after a travesty of a trial.” Begun was sentenced to seven years in prison and five years internal exile.

Stating that “we speak only in the name of human rights,” the petition protested “the continued detention of 14 Jewish Prisoners of Conscience and the 14 more still held after their release from prison. We protest on behalf of the 250,000 Jews who are refused the right to join their families in Israel, some of whom have waited for 10 years and longer.”

The petition also protested “at the growing anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and the escalation of harassment against human rights defenders. We protest at the persecution of Soviet Jews who wish to preserve their religious and cultural heritage and traditions. We condemn these illegal and inhumane acts which conflict with the Helsinki and Madrid accords, which violate the Soviet Constitution and which offend against national justice.”

Immediately after the March, the Jewish leaders began a two-day session of the Presidium of the World Conference on Soviet Jewry. Participants include Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress; Leon Dulzin, chairman of the World Zionist Organization; and Greville Janner MP, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jewry.

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