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200,000 People in Soviet Jewry Rally

May 22, 1978
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Thousands of Jews and non-Jews from the Greater New York area and beyond marched down Broadway from City Hall to Battery Park where they joined many thousands more in a demonstration of Support for Soviet Jewry. The crowd was estimated at 200,000 by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry (GNYCSJ)which has sponsored the “Solidarity Sunday for Soviet Jewry” event for the past seven years.

The march was led off by a group of youngsters in the garb of Soviet prisoners followed by members of Congress, state and local officials, many of them carrying pictures of Soviet Jewish Prisoners of Conscience.

Behind them came groups representing synagogues, Jewish organizations, Zionist groups, doctors, Lawyers and the Interreligious Task Force for Soviet Jewry. While they carried such signs as “We Dare Not Repeat the Past,” “Silence Kills, Will You Speak Out For Soviet Jews, ” and “For Them the Red Sea Has Not Yet Parted, “the predominant banner this year was a picture of a Soviet Jewish prisoner.


At Battery Park with the Statue of Liberty in the background, White House Counsel Robert Lipshutz said that looking at the statue reminded him that all four of his grandparents came to the United States fleeing Russia and now it is up to us to help other Russicn Jews emigrate.

Lipshutz said he brought a message from President Carter which said “To all of you who have assembled here today and to all those brave men and women who are with you in spirit, I am determined to stand by these commitments” to the Helsinki agreement on human rights.

The White House Counsel told the audience that a “government which restricts its own citizens” such as Yuri Orlov or Anatoly Shchransky” for insisting that their own government live up to its own constitution and international agreements, such a government can only invite the concern and distrust of people throughout the world. He said the Carter Administration’s concern for human rights is not propaganda and it was shown that when the U.S. spoke out against the harsh sentence given Orlov last week it was not alone.


Although the organizers of today’s event tried to keep the controversy over the Carter Administration’s sale of planes to Saudi Arabia and Egypt out of the Soviet Jewry issue it was present when a group of young people at the front of the crowd loudly shouted “Dump Carter” throughout the program.

When Mervin Riseman, acting chairman of the GNYCSJ, tried to introduce Lipshutz by noting that Carter had long supported the struggle for Soviet Jewry they tried to drown him out with cries of “Dump Carter” and “Resign Like Siegel,” a reference to Mark Siegel, the White House aide who resigned in March over the plane issue.

At that point, Mayor Edward Koch come for ward and told the group that their action was doing a “disservice” to the cause of Soviet Jewry. The Mayor shood next to Lipehutz throughout his speech as Lipshutz had to shout to be heard over the din. The Presidential aide at one time interrupted his prepared speech and said: “I want to remind the small group to my left that before most of you were born I went to war against Hitler and returned home to fight against the Ku Klux klan.”


Leon Dulzin, chairman of the World Zionist Organization, declared that Soviet Jewry is one-fifth of world Jewry and “we shall not be silent” until all Soviet Jewish prisoners are freed and allowed to emigrate, until all Soviet Jews who want to emigrate to Israel can do so freely and until Jews in the USSR have the right to practice their religious and cultural heritage.

He said Moscow should know that the world is “shocked and angered at the recent escalation of Soviet anti-Semitism.” Dulzin compared the anti Semitic propaganda of the Soviet media with the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion forged during Czarist Russia.

A similar comparision was made by Sen. Daniel P. Maynihan (D.N.Y.) who said that a century ago Russia was the most bigoted and reactionary country in the world and the same thing holds true for it today. He said that the Soviet Union is waging a campaign a campaign against Israel because Israel is a democratic country. Moynihan especially urged strong support for the activities in the Soviet Union.”If we do not help them survive, our own survival is in question,” he warmed.


Sen. Charles Mathias (R. Md.) said that and outpouring of people like today’s event is and “insurance policy” for Soviet activists ” who but for the spotlight of world attention might disappear into a Gulag Archipelago.”

Koch, who has participated in all seven Soviet Jewry Solidarity annual events, said it “has made a difference” because more than 150,000 Soviet Jews have been allowed to emigrate since 1971. New York Gov. Hugh Carey said support of Soviet Jewry also requires support of Israel. “American friends of Israel must do all they can to secure the defense of Israel within recognized and secure borders,” he said.

Dina Beilin, a Moscow Jewish activist who was recently allowed to emigrate, expressed her “deep appreciation” for the active efforts of American Jews. She urged the American people to support Anatoly Shcharasky, who she said she especially fears for, and other Soviet Jews. “I feel that through your active support, many thousands of Jews who valiantly struggled and suffered years of torment in the Soviet Union as refuseniks, as POCs, as Jews, will soon be allowed to descend the ladders of airplanes to freedom, “she said.

A dramatic moment in the rally came when a phone statement from Moscow activist Vladimir Slepak was read expressing concern about the sentence against Orlov and the imminent trials of Scharansky and Alexander Ginzherg. Slepak was cut off in the midst of his phone conversation as he was saying: “The authorities intend to smash both the fight for human rights and the fight of Jews for Aliya. . . .”

A message from Soviet Jewish activists throughout the USSR was read which declared that Western pressure on the Soviet Union for human rights must continue. The activists also stressed that applicants for emigration visas are increasing because “now more and more Jews are beginning to understand clearly that there is no hope and no future for them and their children in the USSR.”

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