A former Soviet Jew brought to the United States by the Jewish Defense League to speak in its behalf said in a television interview here last night that “we must increase the pressure” on the Kremlin to free Soviet Jews. Dov Sperling, an Israeli who is not a member of the JDL, said also that it would be “helpful” if President Nixon spoke out forcefully on the question of Soviet anti-Semitism. He added that while “it would be beautiful” to carry out anti-Soviet demonstrations without violence, “we can’t”. Sperling, who said he was a friend of Yasha Kazakov, the young Jew who fasted outside the United Nations for eight days to dramatize the plight of Soviet Jewry, appeared on WNEW-TV’s “David Susskind Show” in the first half of a two-hour consideration of the JDL and the problems of Soviet Jewry. Joining him on the panel were Rabbi Meir Kahane, JDL chairman; Bertram Zweibon, JDL general counsel, and Joshua Joffe, of the JDL youth movement. The interview was taped the evening before Jan. 19, the day Rabbi Kahane agreed to halt temporarily the JDL’s harassment of Soviet personnel. Sperling was one of eight former Soviet Jews now resident in Israel who last week cabled American Jewish leaders protesting their denunciations of the JDL and calling the League’s activities “most effective.”
In the tv interview, Rabbi Kahane said JDL opponents should not be “so uptight about violence.” While “we don’t counsel violence,” he said, his group would do “whatever has to be done” to aid Soviet Jewry, and “that includes a multitude of sins.” Asked by Susskind whether JDL, which has applauded the recent smashing of the windows of the Soviet Aeroflot-In tourist building, was actually responsible for it, Rabbi Kahane replied: “Heaven forbid I” He rejected the label of rightist suggested by Susskind, and denied a New York Times item that he had worked for the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Kahane and Zweibon differed on one significant point that was not followed up by Susskind. The JDL lawyer said the long prison sentences meted out to two Leningrad defendants would be worse than the originally announced executions; but the JDL chairman later contended that without protest action, Soviet Jews would be given long jail terms “or worse.”
In the second hour of the program, four “Establishment” Jewish leaders condemned the JDL for “counter productive” tactics. Morris Abram-former president of Brandeis University, declared, “You cannot force the Soviet Union to change its miserable policy by the use of sporadic violence in the United States.” He said “Jews cannot prosper under a system of lawlessness,” and called Rabbi Kahane a “childish” man who engaged in “mad antics,” Rabbi Marc H. Tannenbaum, interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee, said the JDL’s “effectiveness is virtually inconsequential” within the American Jewish community. “Rabbi Kahane,” he said, “was actually riding on the coattails of the established Jewish organizations.” Rabbi Tanenbaum Said Jews did not need “violent antics” to “assert their authentic manhood,” and observed of the Kremlin that “a proud government will not submit to that kind of intimidation.”
Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East synagogue, which is located across the street from the Soviet Mission to the United Nations, reported that on his several visits to the USSR as president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, “hundreds” of Soviet Jews had said to him of Rabbi Kahane that “whatever he is doing is harmful.” Arnold Forster, general counsel to the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, stated that the JDLers were “terrorists” like the Black Panthers and that the Kremlin was “using the Jewish Defense League as an excuse” for repression. The four Jewish leaders agreed that “world opinion” sparked by the established Jewish organizations had effected the commutation of the two Leningrad death sentences, not JDL actions.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.