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6000-10,000 Jews, Non-jews, Whites, Blacks, Hold Demonstration in Foley Square

December 31, 1970
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An estimated 6,000 to 10,000 New Yorkers–Jews and non-Jews, whites and non-whites, old and young–braved biting winds in Foley Square from noon to 2 p.m. today for a Soviet Jewry solidarity rally sponsored by the New York Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Employees of the city’s Jewish organizations and of the government offices in the square Joined in the throng, as did workers from the predominantly Jewish midtown garment district who normally spend lunch hour relaxing in cafeterias. Numerous Jewish organizations and businesses throughout the city were closed from 12 to 2 p.m. to permit their employees to participate in the rally and some closed earlier to permit their workers to travel to Foley Square for the start of the demonstration. A number of workers remained at the square after the rally was officially concluded discussing the sentences. The Leningrad trial of Jews and non-Jews for an alleged hijacking attempt was denounced by Mayor John V. Lindsay; Rabbi Gilbert Klaperman, chairman of the New York Conference; Attorney General Louis J. Lefkowitz; Controller Arthur Levitt; Cultural Affairs Commissioner Dore Schary; labor leader Harry Van Arsdale; comedian Alan King and Christian leaders. Mayor Lindsay proclaiming a “Day of Concern,” said the Kremlin was “hypocritical” in condemning the trial of eight Spanish separatists while staging the Leningrad trial.

He declared: “We meet this afternoon as Jew and Gentile, black and white, young and old. We meet not to plead our own interests–but to speak out for thousands of Soviet Jews who cannot speak for themselves. We raise our voices in their name–in the name of justice, decency and compassion.” Mayor Lindsay added: “We appeal today to the leaders of the Soviet Union. And we hope they will respond… Surely, that is not too much to ask of men who claim a concern for human life and human rights. Surely, it is the minimum we must ask for those whose only real crime is their profession or support of mankind’s oldest faith.” Rabbi Klaperman called the Leningrad charges “a complete fabrication, a tissue of lies” that had been condemned even by Communist parties around the globe. He called “not for mercy but for Justice.” In a statement read for him. Conservative Sen.-elect James L. Buckley said the Leningrad trial was reminiscent of Hitlerism. The gathering included some blacks, members of the Italian-American Civil Rights League and other individuals who identified themselves to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as sympathetic non-Jews. The crowd was subdued, except for cries of “Let My People Go,” “Open Up the Iron Door” and “Never Again” by several hundred members of the Jewish Defense League.


Meanwhile appeals for clemency and demonstrations against the harsh sentences imposed on Jews in Leningrad continued today throughout the country. The latest representation was contained in a cable sent to the chief prosecutor of the Soviet Union, Roman Andreevich Rudenko, formerly chief Russian prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. It was signed by Dr. Robert M.W. Kempner, of Landsdowne, Pa., who was the U.S. Deputy Chief Counsel at Nuremberg. The message said, “Recalling our efforts in Nuremberg for Justice and humanity, I appeal to you for mercy for the Jews sentenced to death.” In Boston, the Rabbinical Court of Justice of the Associated Synagogues of Massachusetts, comprised of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform temples, declared yesterday that Jan. 7 should be considered a day of dedication to Soviet Jewry. Jan. 7 (the 10th of Teves) is an official fast day In memory of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. Yesterday afternoon, 200 persons heard speeches of solidarity with the Leningrad prisoners by Catholic, Protestant and Jewish leaders who asked the Nixon administration to act to save the condemned. Messages of support came from Gov. Francis W. Sargent and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. The rally was called by the Jewish Community Council, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry and other groups.

The Daily World, the organ of the Communist Party U.S.A., said in an editorial yesterday that while it believed the Leningrad defendants were guilty, “Nonetheless…we come to the conclusion that the interests of mankind will best be served if…the Soviet authorities commute the two death sentences.” In an editorial scheduled for publication in the next issue of the Militant, the Socialist Workers Party (Trotskyist) organ, declares that the death penalty for an “alleged” hijacking is “one more example of the barbaric extremes to which the Kremlin bureaucrats will go in attempting to maintain their dictatorial rule.” The editorial adds that “the principles of socialist Justice are totally alien” to the Kremlin. The SWP, which advocates the “dismantling of the State of Israel,” contends in the editorial that “anti-Soviet” propagandists, especially in the United States and Israel, will use the Leningrad sentences for “their own reactionary purposes.” In a radio interview last night, Rabbi Klaperman and Stanley Lowell of the New York Conference on Soviet Jewry asked listeners to bombard the Soviet ambassador in Washington, Anatoly F. Dobrynin, with appeals for clemency.

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