400 at Rally on Behalf of Soviet Jewish Artists, Intellectuals
Menu JTA Search

400 at Rally on Behalf of Soviet Jewish Artists, Intellectuals

Download PDF for this date

More than 400 people massed in Duffy Square in mid-Manhattan during the noon hour today to hear American celebrities of the stage, screen and the arts appeal for justice for harassed and persecuted Jewish artists, writers and intellectuals in the Soviet Union. The rally was sponsored by the Writers and Artists for Peace in the Middle East in cooperation with the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.

Speakers pointed out that Jewish artists, writers and intellectuals in the USSR have been subjected to the harshest economic and social censure only because they have expressed a wish to emigrate to Israel or other countries where they can live freely as Jews and as creative individuals. They have been dismissed from their jobs. They cannot work in their professions, yet they are not permitted to leave, the audience was told.

Clive Barnes, drama and dance critic of the New York Times, cited the example of Valery Panov and his wife, Galina, both ballet stars who were dismissed from Leningrad’s Kirov Ballet Co. after applying for visas to go to Israel. “Panov is a symbol of Jewish oppression in the Soviet Union,” Barnes said. He described the Panov case as “racial discrimination at its worst.”


The noted playwright, Paddy Chayefsky declared: “It is imperative for American Jews to protect every Valery Panov, every Benjamin Levitch, every Jew in Russia and everywhere else who is threatened because he is a Jew. We have endured as a proud people for four thousand years. The time has apparently come again to fight and to survive.”

Others speakers urged that this special group of oppressed artists and writers in the Soviet Union not be forgotten in the excitement generated by news that the Soviet authorities were suspending the education tax on emigrants. Mayor John V. Lindsay proclaimed April 25 as “a day of recognition for Soviet Jewish writers, artists and intellectuals.” He urged all New Yorkers “to continue to support, in every way possible, this valiant and courageous group.”

The ruthless persecution of Jewish writers and intellectuals in the Stalin era was recalled by actress Joanne Woodward who read, in English translation, a poem by the late Soviet Yiddish poet, Peretz Markish. Markish was executed in the early 1950s, one of the first victims of the Stalin purge of Jewish intellectuals.

Father Norman O’Connor told the gathering: “I speak not as a Catholic priest but as a human being. We want freedom for all. We have been negligent in the fight for Jews.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund