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20,000 Say ‘let My People Go!

December 15, 1971
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The message was unmistakable clear and precise; let the three million Jews in the Soviet Union leave. Senators Henry M. Jackson (D., Wash.) and Gerald R. Ford (R., Mich.) demanded it, Ruth Aleksandrovich Averbuch personified it, Rabbi Gilbert Klapperman dramatized it, Vernon E. Jordan Jr. of the Urban League underscored it, and 20,000 persons tumultuously applauded it.

The occasion was the Freedom Lights for Soviet Jewry rally at Madison Square Garden last night, the second night of Chanukah, held to express solidarity with Soviet Jewry. The rally was sponsored by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Center for Russian Jewry.

Jackson denounced Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin for “lying” when he termed Soviet persecution of Jews a “myth.” If Kosygin is right, “it would follow that he would be willing to remove all restrictions on Jewish immigration–for what has he to fear.” Jackson declared amidst shouts from the audience, “Jackson for President.”


He noted that there are “too many people” in America who urge “that we must not press too hard on the issue of Russian Jewry for fear of hurting our relations with the Soviet Union.” He said this happened in the past, “in the thirties with regard to the Nazis. We listened to the counsels of expediency and ignored the cries for help. We must never repeat the mistake.”

The Senator observed that in view of Russia’s desire to increase non-strategic trade with the US, it would not be “too much to ask that as part of the bargain Moscow loosen up on its immigration policies and cease its policy of cultural genocide against the Jews.”

Ford, House Minority Leader, declared that “I will strongly recommend” to President Nixon that during his visit to Moscow next May he make clear to the Kremlin how Americans feel about the oppression of Soviet Jews. Ford declared that “Since the Soviet Union uses its veto at the United Nations and asserts itself through the UN when it suits Russian convenience. I feel it is now very appropriate for the United States to remind the Russians of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.”


Mrs. Averbuch, who arrived in New York Sunday evening with her husband, Isaiah, and her mother, Mrs. Rivka Aleksandrovich, received a standing ovation when she expressed her gratitude to “all of you and all those who helped in getting me out of the Soviet Union.” She expressed her love for Israel and urged the huge gathering not to forget those still imprisoned in the Soviet jails, especially Sylva Zalmanson Kuznetsov. “While I am free, my heart is still with our imprisoned brothers and sisters,” she declared.

Rabbi Klapperman, chairman of the New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, declared: “We have come here tonight to declare our concern for the welfare of the three million Jews in the Soviet Union and our identification with their faith….They stretch out their hands to us and cry ‘do not forget us,’ and this enormous gathering pledges itself tonight that we will not forget them.”

Jordan, executive director of the National Urban League, stated in a message of greetings that “We are all diminished when Jews in Russia are denied their basic freedoms, just as all humanity is diminished when black Americans are denied the equality that is rightfully ours…We join with you in asking for justice for Soviet Jews…” Roy Innis, national leader of the Congress of Racial Equality, said that Blacks and Jews had a “long history of oppression,” and declared: “We (CORE) will join you in proclaiming, ‘Let My People Go in the Soviet Union,’ if you join us in our cry, ‘Let my people go in America.”

Senator James L. Buckley (Cons,-R.,N.Y.). In a message of greetings, stated he was continuing to press for Yiddish broadcasts by the Voice of America, and disclosed that he was “assured” that these programs “may run as much as twice the initially expected program length–as much as 25 minutes–if the volume of news or Jewish holidays warrant.”

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