Women in U.S. and Canada Unite on Behalf of Soviet Jewry, Especially the Pcs
Menu JTA Search

Women in U.S. and Canada Unite on Behalf of Soviet Jewry, Especially the Pcs

Download PDF for this date

Women throughout this country and Canada united yesterday on behalf of Soviet Jewry in a series of events–including rallies, candle-light walks, vigils and soup kitchens–demonstrating their concern for Soviet Jewry’s struggle for human dignity. Special emphasis was placed on Jewish “prisoners of conscience.” those imprisoned in the USSR because they sought permission to emigrate to Israel. The events, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of United Nations Human Rights Day, were-sponsored by the Leadership Conference of the National Jewish Women’s Organizations in cooperation with the National. Conference on Soviet Jewry. The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council helped coordinate the local programs. In Metropolitan New York, a rally of concern was co-sponsored by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry at the Park East Synagogue, across the street from the Soviet Mission to the UN. The rally began after 42 white roses–each representing a “prisoner of conscience”–were placed on the doorstep of the Soviet Mission. The meeting, part of city-wide activities involving thousands of people, was attended by close to 500 women leaders in the metropolitan area. The event focused on the plight of Silva Zalmanson.

Rep. Bella S. Abzug (D.NY), who was a scheduled speaker but was delayed in Washington due to Congressional activity, sent a message stating: “We must continue to raise our voices in behalf of Silva Zalmanson and all other courageous Soviet Jews–men and women–who seek the right to practice Judaism without impediment and the right to leave the Soviet Union to emigrate to Israel and other countries.” She also asked those at the rally to consider the plight of Israeli POWs held by Syria. “Syria should be called upon to give the International Red Cross access to its POW camps. and to agree to an immediate exchange of wounded prisoners,” Rep, Abzug stated. Other speakers at the rally included Mrs. Abraham Beame; Mrs. Ogden Reid; Sheila Klein, a cantor; and sculptress Louise Nevelson.

Bronx Borough President Robert Abrams proclaimed the day as “Women’s Plea for Human Rights for Soviet Jewry.” He formally presented the proclamation at a mass rally at Young Israel of Pelham Parkway. In separate actions, Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and Mayor John V. Lindsay issued proclamations designating Dec. as “Soviet Jewish Prisoner of Conscience Month.” The proclamations were presented to the Greater New York Conference. Both officials urged New Yorkers to call on the Soviet government to end the persecution of Jews, grant amnesty to the PCs, and allow emigration to Israel when desired.

In Washington some 350 women, leaders of 10 area Jewish organizations, joined in a rally at Adas Israel Congregation and sought to present a petition to the Soviet Embassy on behalf of PCs and those who wish to emigrate. At the Embassy, a delegation led by Mrs. Jerome Dick, the rally chairman, and Mrs. Betty Shapiro, head of the Soviet Jewry Committee of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, were met by a Soviet official who acknowledged that the Embassy had received a telegram from the women requesting an appointment but said the appointment would not be granted and the petition would not be accepted. The petition was left on the entranceway to the Embassy. During the rally, Rep. Peter A. Peyser (R.NY) said that he and Rep. Hamilton Fish Jr. (R.NY) were sending gift parcels to Jewish prisoners in the USSR with franked Congressional return addresses on them to test Soviet official attitudes toward the practice of helping the prisoners. The two legislators had announced last week that they asked all members of the House to persuade the Soviet Union to permit Jewish prisoners in labor camps to receive gifts of food and clothing.

In Philadelphia the Federal Courthouse was chosen as the site for a mass rally. “We have chosen a courtroom because no setting could be more appropriate to protest the Soviet Union’s violation of international law or Soviet law itself,” explained Mrs. Ester Polen, vice-president of the Jewish Community Relations Council. In Chicago a typical “prisoner’s lunch” was served in the Carnegie Theater in a gesture of solidarity with Jews imprisoned in the USSR. The theme of the gathering was “A Mother’s Separation From Her Children.” A film was shown depicting the exodus of Jews to Israel. Another film featured Ingrid Bergman presenting a plea for human rights from Mrs. Zalmanson. In Montreal the Canadian Jewish Congress sent a telegram signed by Sol Kanee and Saul Hayes to Soviet President Nicolai Podgorny urging an end to “the harassment of those Jews who applied to leave the Soviet Union and also the harassment of Jewish militants and the release of Jewish prisoners of conscience.” The Montreal Committee for Soviet Jewry called upon Soviet leaders “to enforce and uphold the basic rights guaranteed all citizens under the Soviet constitution.”

In a statement, Rose E. Matzkin, national president of Hadassah, said that “International Human Rights Days can be different this year because Congress has an opportunity to back the noble words with effective action,” She noted that the Mills-Vanik/Jackson bills are “an important human rights tool which confirms U.S. leadership in the democratic world. Its passage will establish a precedent which can advance the struggle for oppressed people everywhere.” Mrs. Henry N. Rapaport, president of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, sent a telegram to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin requesting him “to convey our earnest appeal to your government to grant amnesty to those prisoners of conscience who have been incarcerated because of their requests to emigrate to Israel.” She also urged “special consideration” for Mrs. Zalmanson who is quite ill.

A statement of concern issued by the Women’s Leadership Conference, whose national chairman is Virginia Snitow and whose sub-committee on Soviet Jewry chairwoman is Ruth Dolkart, declared “In recent weeks we have seen a brutal crackdown in the Soviet Union on Soviet Jews, culminating in two trials,” that of Petya Pinchasov In Derbent and Aleksandr Feldman in Kiev. The statement added that the plight of more than 40 Soviet Jewish prisoners of conscience “now interned in Soviet labor camps, and the prospect of six trial slated for the coming weeks, compel women to continue to join in meaningful action stressing their solidarity with Soviet 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