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U.S. Jewish Communities Plan Big Turnout for Washington Rally

November 4, 1987
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Dozens of representatives from Midwest and East Coast Jewish communities met here Tuesday to plan for a “mass mobilization” on behalf of Soviet Jewry to greet Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev Dec. 6 when he arrives in Washington for a summit meeting with President Reagan.

The representatives were invited here to Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith headquarters by the Summit III Task Force, which as coordinator of the Washington demonstration represents 50 national Jewish organizations and 300 local Jewish community organizations.

Local Jewish federations, Jewish community relations councils and chapters of national organizations have taken on responsibility for mobilization and coordination for the march and demonstration and have made it their “highest priority,” according to Jerry Strober, spokesperson for the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ).

“We feel a very strong interest developing within the American Jewish community,” said Strober. “We’ve had very positive signs from a number of communities throughout the United States that they are enthusiastic, that they are excited, and that they see this as a historic opportunity.”

Tuesday meeting participants included representatives from the Jewish communities of Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, the Delaware Valley, Detroit, southern New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., Washington, D.C., and Worcester, Mass.


According to Strober, they were urged “to make every effort to bring as many people as possible.” The representatives were told that Jewish organizations nationwide are urging their members to attend the demonstration.

For instance, all 1,600 chapters of Hadassah will be asked to bring as many of their members as possible. In addition, students are being urged to participate through campus B’nai B’rith Hillel programs, according to a Hillel representative attending the meeting.

The three-hour march and demonstration will include music as well as addresses by former refuseniks — including Natan Sharansky, Ida Nudel, Vladimir Slepak and Yuli Edelshtein, all now living in Israel. Members of Congress, an administration representative, entertainment figures, Nobel laureate, Elie Wiesel and representatives of labor, civil rights, Christian and other ethnic groups also will be invited.

David Harris, coordinator of the event “on loan” from the American Jewish Committee, pointed out that Gorbachev could arrive two or three days before the official beginning of the summit and therefore could be in Washington at the time of the rally.

However, all was not peaceful in the Soviet Jewry activist camp. Glenn Richter, national coordinator of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, said he was upset that Yosef Mendelevich, chairman of the Soviet Jewry Education and Information Center located in Jerusalem, has not been invited to speak. Neither did he receive an invitation to speak at the rally on Solidarity Sunday last May, but then he grabbed the microphone and spoke anyway.

“It’s not just Mendelevich but what Mendelevich represents,” said Richter, “The program cannot be only thanks to the (Reagan) administration for speaking out for human rights in the Soviet Union, but also a challenge to the administration to do much more.”

Richter said he didn’t feel the enthusiasm that Strober did, but rather quiet interest.

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