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Dr. King, American Negro Leader, Attacks Soviet Policy on Jews

November 21, 1963
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Speaking as a man who “happens to be an American Negro,” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., lashed out last night at the Soviet Government for its “attempt to liquidate the Jewish people in Soviet Russia.”

The acknowledged leader of the current civil rights movement, Dr. King was presented with the United Synagogue of America’s special Solomon Schechter award during centenary Emancipation Proclamation ceremonies at the organization’s 50th anniversary convention.

George Maislen, president of the United Synagogue, presented Dr. King with the award for “his role in translating the prophetic vision of Abraham Lincoln into a living reality.” The award is named for the founder of the United Synagogue, who was himself an ardent Lincoln admirer. The only previous recipient was Governor Herbert H. Lehman, who was similarly honored in 1947.

Dr. King scored “the injustices, the indignities and the humiliating experiences that the Jews of Russia are facing today.” He said he was expressing his concern by serving on a committee that was trying to keep the problem of Soviet Jewry before the conscience of the nation and the world. He said:

“This kind of spiritual annihilation, this attempt to engage in a systematic spiritual liquidation, is something we must not allow. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Injustice to any people is a threat to justice for all people–and even though I live in the United States, and even though I happen to be an American Negro, I cannot stand idly by and fail to be concerned about the fate of my brothers and sisters who happen to be Jews in Soviet Russia. What happens to them, happens to me and to you and we must all be concerned.”

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