Some 200,000 persons rallied today at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from the United Nations for the 11th annual Solidarity Sunday for Soviet Jewry.
Under clear blue skies, the rally was proceeded with a march along Fifth Avenue where thousands of persons, demonstrating their, support and concern for the plight of Soviet Jewry, displayed posters with names and pictures of Soviet Jewish refuseniks.
At the rally in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, speaker after speaker stressed the increasing urgency of the Soviet Jewry issue, which according to United States Ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, "has grown increasingly desperate."
Kirkpatrick, one of many political figures and noted dignitaries to address the rally, said the United States Administration will "not acquiesce" to the deteriorating conditions Soviet Jews have been subjected to. She noted that there is a continuing attack on Soviet Jewish "cultural and linguistic rights," and the denial of the right to emigrate, which the ambassador said was a universal human right granted through the Helsinki accords.
Kirkpatrick, speaking to a "sea of posters" which the marchers displayed prominently throughout the afternoon, noted the problem of Soviet sponsored anti-Semitism. She said that this is "illegal, immoral and unacceptable" to people all over the world and that the U.S. will not remain indifferent. She said the Administration will continue to speak out on behalf of Jewish culture, freedom and security of Soviet Jews. "And God will bless our undertaking," she declared.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arens said that while the door to emigration has virtually been closed and the exodus of Soviet Jews from the USSR has diminished to a trickle, this has not stopped the Jewish community’s desire to emigrate.
NEED TO STRESS THE ISSUE
Other speakers also said the United States should continue to raise the issue of Soviet Jewry in all bilateral discussions with the Soviet Union. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R. NY) said it will "take hard economic pressure … not empty rhetoric … to end the religious genocide presently being waged by the Kremlin."
State Attorney General Robert Abrams, former chairman or the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, the rally’s organizer, said "We will never relent at expressing our rage at anti-Semitism in Russia." He, too, stressed that the United States should press the issue of Soviet Jewry in all discussions of bilateral issues between the U.S. and Russia.
Dr. Seymour Lachman, chairman of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, said that the number of Jews now permitted to leave the Soviet Union is at the lowest level in 10 years.
"More than 500,000 Jews have indicated their desire to leave the Soviet Union so that they can practice their religion freely," he said, "but in 1981, fewer than 9,500 Jews were allowed to emigrate, compared to the more than 51,000 who left in 1979. This represents a virtual halt in emigration." He predicted that at the current rate, no more than 3,500 Jews would leave the Soviet Union in 1982.
Some of the posters at the rally read, "Let Soviet Jews emigrate," "Solidarity with Soviet Jews," and "Open the gates to Soviet Jewry." There also appeared to be greater expression on behalf of the plight of Ethiopia’s Jews, the Falashas. A poster reading, "The Falasha Jews need you too," and another saying "All Jews are brothers, save the Falashas," were displayed during the march along Fifth Avenue.
The marchers were led, in what has become a traditional part of the Solidarity Sunday rally, by a group wearing prison uniforms to represent Jewish Prisoners of Conscience in Soviet prisons and labor camps. They carried posters with the names and pictures of prominent refuseniks such as Anatoly Shcharansky and Ida Nudel.
Mayor Edward Koch accused the Soviet Union of being a "monstrous, barbaric state now engaged in cultural genocide against the Jewish people." He also denounced the United Nations as an institution which is "a monument to hypocrisy."
A letter by President Reagan, that was read at the rally, expressed "my deep concern" about the plight of Soviet Jewry and said the actions of the Soviet Union are "an affront to all of us who cherish individual liberty." The statement was boded by many activists in the audience when it was read.
The organizers of today’s rally claimed that the event was the largest human rights rally to be held anywhere in the world and that the attendance had topped 200,000 for the first time.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.