A More Modest ‘solidarity’ Rally for Soviet Jews Staged This Year

While glasnost and increased Soviet Jewish emigration kept mainstream Jewish organizations off the streets this year, 150 Jews rallied Sunday in front of the Soviet Mission to the United Nations.

The “Day of Solidarity” rally, sponsored by the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry and the Long Island Committee for Soviet Jewry, took the place of the massive “Solidarity Sunday” rally, which in previous years drew as many as 200,000 demonstrators.

For the second straight year, the Coalition to Free Soviet Jewry voted to cancel “Solidarity Sunday,” which had become an annual May event. The rally was canceled because of “an increase in emigration, the release of political prisoners and progress in human rights,” according to Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the coalition’s chairman.

Those gathered at Sunday’s SSSJ rally heard speeches condemning anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and continuing barriers to free emigration. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s recent initiatives were praised, but speakers said it was “not enough,” and did not justify the leveling off of pressure by American Jews.

“We must tell our Jewish leaders that it’s not yet “dayenu,” said Jacob Birnbaum, national director of the Center for Russian Jewry. “We cannot give concessions without fundamental concessions on the side of the Soviet Union.”

Birnbaum said mainstream American Jewry had been “stampeded” by “Gorby-phoria.”

Others at the rally said they were dismayed by “Solidarity Sunday’s” cancellation.

“When the history of the Soviet Jewry movement is written, historians will ask how it is possible that, in only a few months, the infrastructure of the movement has disintegrated,” said Rabbi Avraham Weiss, SSSJ chairman.

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