San Franciscan in Midst of 20-day Fast for Soviet Jewry

A 30-year-old Jew who shaved his head, donned prison clothes and is nearing the end of a 20-day fast in front of the Soviet Consulate, said that he has taken his actions because Jews in the Soviet Union are “living in a state of siege.”

Reuben Haller, a native of San Francisco, spends four to six hours each day outside the Soviet facility on Green Street to dramatize the plight of three Moscow refuseniks. Two of these are Veniamin and Tanya Bogomolny.

Haller said that the 20-day duration of his fast, which began July 16 and is scheduled to end August 4, equals the number of years Veniamin Bogomolny has been waiting to emigrate to Israel. Bogomolny first applied for an exit visa in 1966 and is the longest-term refusenik in the Soviet Union.

Bogomolny’s wife, Tanya, is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and has a sister, Natasha Sverbilov, who lives in San Francisco. Haller, who plans to emigrate to Israel next year and calls himself a “Zionist activist,” said in an interview that it is time for American Jews to turn up the volume of protest if they want to save refuseniks.

According to Lillian Foreman, president of the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews which is coordinating the protest, “unless we keep the spotlight on specific Jewish families who aren’t allowed to be reunited, as well as on the dismal rate of emigration in general, the public will forget just how serious the problem really is.”

Haller, a BACSJ Board member, said his protest is also meant to focus attention on the imprisonment of refusenik Hebrew teacher, Alexey Magarik, 30, who was arrested this spring on fabricated charges of hashish possession.

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