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3 Rabbis and State Senator Among 37 People Arrested at Soviet Facility

April 16, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Three rabbis and a New York State Senator were among 37 people arrested yesterday after demonstrating outside the Soviet Residence complex in Riverdale to protest against “the new spiritual genocide of Jews in Russia.”

The protest and the arrests were the sixth since January of an ongoing series of peaceful demonstrations outside Soviet facilities, followed each time by arrests. More than 250 participants, including 125 rabbis, have been arrested since the beginning of “Operation Redemption” early this year. The demonstrations, cosponsored by the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ) and the Long Island Committee for Soviet Jewry, seek to draw attention to the heightened plight of Soviet Jews.

In yesterday’s demonstration, about 175 people, many wearing talleisim and yarmulkas and carrying prayer books and shofars, gathered behind the police barricades near the Soviet Residence complex where hundreds of Soviet officials and their families reside.

The police, who had been notified beforehand of the group’s plans, stood silently and respectfully as the protestors sang Hebrew songs and prayers and chanted. They were addressed by Rabbi Avraham Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, who serves as SSSJ chairman; Rabbis lrving Rosner of Congregation Sons of Israel in Yonkers; William Herskowitz of the Greystone Jewish Center of Yonkers; and New York State Senator Abraham Bernstein of The Bronx, all of whom were subsequently arrested.


Addressing the gathering, Weiss declared: “On this day, as President Reagan begins to prepare for a summit with (Soviet leader) Mikhail Gorbachev, we say to the Soviets: You seek trade, we dream freedom; you seek technology, we demand human dignity; you want dollars, we want emigration. ” He emphasized the need for a quid pro quo of guaranteeing Soviet Jewish rights for any American cooperation with the USSR.

Bernstein asked, “How as a lawmaker can I break the law?” Answering his own question, the Senator said that “to call attention to a serious situation, one may have to do something extraordinary. We call attention to our concern for Jews in Russia.”

The demonstrators carried banners with such slogans as “Stop the persecution of those whose only crime is wanting to be free.” Psalms were recited throughout the proceedings and a shofar blew a strong “Tekiah” as on Rosh Hashanah and as used in the gathering of the Tribes of Israel.


Led by Bernstein, the demonstrators began to march toward the massive iron, wired gates of the Soviet compound singing “Ani Ma’ Amin” (“I Believe”), the traditional prayer which was sung by concentration camp inmates as they filed into the crematoria. The group of young and old appeared determined and spirited as they circumvented the police barricades in an orderly fashion.

The demonstration was timed to coincide with the end of the Passover holiday, which commemorates the redemption of the Jews from slavery; the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps; and the ascension of a new Soviet leader. Those arrested were charged with disorderly conduct and will stand trial June 27. Last week, New York City Criminal Judge Richard Carruthers dismissed charges against 77 of the previously arrested demonstrators, declaring that “the court finds the policies of the Soviet Union to be an abomination.” Carruthers said he was acting “in the interests of justice.”

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