NEW YORK (May. 31)
About 5,000 people filled the Times Square area between 44th and 45th Streets here at noon Tuesday to call for the unrestricted emigration of Soviet Jews.
The demonstration was organized by the Coalition to Free Soviet Jews, which had vowed “to turn Times Square into Red Square.” It was timed to coincide with President Reagan’s summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
New York Mayor Edward Koch, whose closing wish of “yasher koach” (well done) to President Reagan in Moscow went over the heads of most reporters to whom he gave it, praised the president for his human rights stand.
Koch introduced Cardinal John O’Connor, archbishop of New York, as “the greatest worker for Soviet Jewry.” O’Connor, who is leaving next Tuesday for the Soviet Union, said, “As long as there is one Jew who is not free, not a single Catholic is free.”
O’Connor said that during his 10-day trip he “will do everything I can conceivably do to express my determination to free Soviet Jews.”
But while the speeches were made at the podium, the real action took place behind. David Dinkins, the Manhattan borough president, just back from demonstrations and hearings in Helsinki, ran headlong into Vladimir Magaryk as he descended from the stand where he had just made a stirring speech.
‘THIS IS WHY WE’RE HERE’
“Now this is why we’re here,” said Dinkins, visibly moved as he first shook hands with Magaryk, then grabbed him in a warm hug. Dinkins reminisced aloud about having stood on the steps of City Hall two years ago with Magaryk, whose son, Alexei, was then a prisoner of conscience.
“This man bicycled all over the country on behalf of his son,” Dinkins explained proudly.
Alexei Magaryk was freed from labor camp in October. He arrived in Israel in February.
“Here stands proof,” said Dinkins. “Letters, protests and rallies do have an effect.”
Dinkins’ companion on the Helsinki trip, New York Attorney General Robert Abrams, broke into a big smile as he saw Magaryk and likewise reached out for him.
Dinkins and Abrams, who attended activities in Helsinki organized by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, were excited about their four-day trip to the Finnish capital, from which they returned Monday.
“We had a vigil, we spoke, we marched,” said Dinkins. He noted that “in New York, you can find someone to march easily, but in Finland, with its some 1,000 Jews, it’s really something.”
Abrams spoke about the hearing they held in Helsinki on violations of the Helsinki human rights accords.
“Every day we connected with the Finnish Jewish community,” he said. “We met with (Secretary of State George) Shultz, to whom we gave a standing ovation for his ongoing fight from the heart, his support for Soviet Jewry.”
Abrams said Shultz told them “how he will never relent” in the fight for Soviet Jews.
‘IMPACT IN RED SQUARE’
The attorney general also spoke of the importance of Soviet Jewry demonstrations. “What happens in Times Square has an impact in Red Square,” he said.
Dinkins, who is black, stressed the black-Jewish fight together, and spoke in his podium remarks of the great injustices in South Africa. “The Jewish and black communities have both suffered greatly. We must continue to work together,” he said.
Those who attended the rally included many students from local yeshivas and day schools, and members of organizations such as Hadassah and the Workmen’s Circle, whose Yiddish sign held aloft translated as “Give them the right to live as free Jews.”
A Brooklyn couple came unaffiliated with any organization. Seymour and Edith Gross were there “because we follow every Jewish occasion.” Edith Gross said that “as a Holocaust survivor, I feel it is my obligation and my privilege to come out.”
Rally organizer Zeesy Schnur, who is executive director of the coalition, was asked if the rally had fulfilled her expectations. She replied with a big smile, “Very much.”