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Russians, Ukrainians Protest Reading of Letter from Russian Woman on Son’s Misery

November 26, 1969
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Soviet and Ukrainian delegates objected angrily today when the United States representative on the United Nations Human Rights Commission read a letter from a Jewish mother in Moscow appealing to the world organization to intercede with Soviet authorities to permit her son to emigrate to Israel. Mrs. Rita Hauser was interrupted repeatedly by the Soviet and Ukrainian representatives as she read excerpts from a letter written by Mrs. Elizaveta Isaakovna Kapshitza who claimed that her son, Vitold, a writer, has been unable to find work for two years because he has applied for permission to emigrate to Israel.

The letter was submitted to the UN Human Rights Division today by Lewis H. Weinstein, of Boston, chairman of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry. It was shown to Ambassador Charles W. Yost, U.S. representative to the UN, and a copy was given to Mrs. Hauser. Mr. Weinstein told newsmen that the letter was brought to this country by a tourist who had visited Russia. It was dated Sept. 24, 1969 and contained Mrs. Kapshitza’s address in Moscow. The letter was written in Russian and translated by the Conference.

Mrs. Hauser brought it up in the General Assembly’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee today as a further indication of the repression suffered by Jews in the Soviet Union. She said the letter was shown to her as a private communication and that she had no doubts about its authenticity. As she read from its contents, the Soviet and Ukrainian delegates raised repeated points of order. They insisted that the letter was not relevant to the committee’s agenda and that if it represented a formal complaint, it must be submitted through proper channels. The Third Committee chairman made no ruling. But Mrs. Hauser did not finish reading the letter.

The writer, who described herself as a bed-ridden invalid, said that her son was expelled from the writers committee of the literary fund of the USSR and from his trade union which has denied him work unless he “repents.” She said that as a result, she and her son must subsist on her meager pension of 40 rubles a month–about $45. Mrs. Kapshitzer is widowed. Her letter, addressed to the UN General Assembly, contained a plea to the Soviet Government to give her son “the right of free departure, give him the possibility of beginning life anew. I know that it is only the Soviet Government that has the power to solve this question. But there is such a thing as conscience in this world and someone must sense our pain,” she wrote.

According to the letter, Mrs. Kapshitzer said that her son had never been particularly “nationalistic,” a reference to the fact that in the Soviet Union Jews are officially classed as a nationality. She said he had received a truly “international” education and had always considered national enmities as the greatest of ills. “But he found it impossible to overlook the insulting attitude toward his people. He could not ignore the injustices and cruelties and could not reconcile himself to the degradation of man,” she wrote.


Mrs. Kapshitzer wrote that in 1967 her son had applied to the Government of Israel to be admitted as a “repatriate.” In answer to the request he received an invitation to come to Israel. “The Soviet authorities agreed to consider my son’s application for an exit permit only on condition that he give up his Soviet citizenship. He was thus forced to apply to the presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR stating that he was giving up Soviet citizenship. He sent this statement on May 31, 1967 but until now he has received no official written reply–although he has been told orally that his request to give up Soviet citizenship has been denied,” Mrs. Kapshitzer wrote.

After his expulsion from the writers committee and his trade union, the demand was put to him to “repent”, she said. “But what should he repent of?” the letter asked. “Is devotion to one’s people a crime? Are feelings of human and national dignity for bidden? Has a man no right to defend himself and his people from insults?” Mrs. Kapshitzer wrote that she could not understand why the Soviet authorities refuse to let her son leave. “He knows no state secrets. He has no intention and no possibility of harming the Soviet State in any way,” she wrote. “Can the reason be just cruelty in principle?”

Mr. Weinstein, Conference chairman, gave Mr. Yost and Mrs. Hauser copies of Mrs. Kapshitzer’s letter. Later Mr. Weinstein had it delivered to the UN’s Human Rights Division. Members of the delegation who met with Mr. Yost and Mrs. Hauser were: Mr. Weinstein; Rabbi Israel Miller, past Conference chairman; Rabbi Saul I. Teplitz, vice chairman; Abraham J. Bayer, Conference coordinator; Mrs.Fay Schenk, Hadassah’s national president; Phil Baum, director of the American Jewish Congress’ commission on international affairs; Dr. William Korey, director of the B’nai B’rith UN Office; and Richard Maas, chairman of the American Jewish Committee’s foreign affairs committee.

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