NEW YORK (Jan. 8)
Six New York area rabbis were arrested yesterday and charged with criminal trespass stemming from a nearly two-hour demonstration at the offices here of the Soviet news agency Tass. They were protesting the Soviet Union’s treatment of its Jewish population.
The six were released and ordered to appear in court on January 24. An unidentified employe at the Tass office was quoted in news reports last night as calling the demonstration a “Zionist provocation.”
The protest was held to coincide with this week’s arms talks in Geneva between senior Reagan Administration officials, including Secretary of State George Shultz, and Soviet officials led by Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko.
STATEMENT BY THE RABBIS
Seeking to link any Soviet commitment on arms control to their past record on human rights, the six rabbis said in a statement that “If the Kremlin is to be trusted, it must show that it abides by the multitude of international human rights treaties it has signed.”
The rabbis, wearing phylacteries and reading from prayer books, noted the plight of Soviet Jewish Prisoner of Conscience Anatoly Shcharansky, whose wife Avital is currently in Geneva reportedly meeting with members of the United States delegation.
Furthermore, the statement assailed the continued Soviet harassment and persecution of unofficial teachers of Hebrew and Judaism who have been arrested and sentenced in recent weeks, and “the hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews who have dared to apply for exit visas and who may be doomed to be denied emigration forever.”
The rabbis were: Avraham Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale who is chairman of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry; Daniel Fogel of the North Shore Synagogue in Syosset; Bruce Ginsberg of the Bethpage Jewish Community Center; Charles Klein of the Merrick Jewish Center; Alan Meyerowitz of the West Clarkstown Jewish Center in Spring Valley; and Gerald Skolnik of the Forest Hills Jewish Center.
Meanwhile, the rabbis have vowed to continue their protests, and have sent a letter to the Soviet Mission to the United Nations here informing them of their continued actions on behalf of Soviet Jewry. Also, the rabbis called on Jews and non-Jews to stage protests at Soviet offices to dramatize the plight of Soviet Jewish Prisoners of Conscience.