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Leading Americans Send Appeal to Khrushchev on Jews in Russia

October 14, 1963
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A seven-point appeal asking for full religious, cultural and other rights for Jews in the Soviet Union was sent today to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in the name of about 100 leading Americans who held an all-day Conference on the Statue of Soviet Jews at the Carnegie International Center here.

The appeal was adopted at the Conference unanimously yesterday, following impressive addresses on the discriminations against Soviet Jewry delivered by prominent American authors, educators and clergymen. Presiding over the Conference–which was sponsored by leading American personalities–was the Rt. Rev. James A. Pike, Protestant Episcopal Bishop of California.

Documented reports presented at the Conference established that the Jews in the USSR are being denied religious and cultural rights extended to other nationalities in the country, and are being subjected to officially-condoned persecutions. Throughout the discussions it was emphasized by speakers that they do not seek to conduct anti-Soviet propaganda but merely appeal for Justice to the Jews and for combatting anti-Semitic propaganda in repeats in the Soviet press.

The seven-point appeal–a copy of which was transmitted today also to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin in Washington–called for immediate action by the Soviet Government on the following specific proposals:

1. Jewish education in all its forms should be permitted.

2. Jewish-cultural institutions should be reopened and Jewish artistic-life–literature, theater, music, in Yiddish and Hebrew–should be allowed to develop fully.

3. Central institutions to serve the religious needs of Soviet Jewry should be established; the closing of synagogues and private prayer meetings should be halted, and obstacles to the performance of sacred rites should be removed.

4. Formal religious and cultural bonds with Jewish communities abroad should be allowed, official exchange visits permitted and the right to tease religious pilgrimages to the Holy Land granted.

5. Permission for Jews to leave the USSR, so that they may be reunited with families in other lands from whom they have been separated, should be implemented.

6. The anti-Jewish character that so strongly colors the official campaign against economic crimes should be eliminated.

7. A vigorous educational campaign against anti-Semitism should be undertaken.

"We appeal," the Conference resolution stated, "to all those in the USSR who genuinely desire the eradication of the evils of Stalinism and who, with us, thirst for truth, Justice and decency. We appeal to the Soviet authorities to act in this matter on the basis of their own ideological, constitutional and legal commitments, We issue this appeal in all solemnity, as a matter of urgency and elementary decency. We cannot keep silent so long as Justice is not done on this problem."


Associate Justice William 0. Douglas, of the United States Supreme Court–one of the co-sponsors of the Conference–told the gathering that anti-Jewish persecutions manifest themselves in the USSR in many ways, including discrimination against the use of Jewish personnel "in public service, " The Supreme Court Justice cited the absence of Jews in the Soviet Navy. "Despite the constitutional facade" of Soviet laws forbidding discriminations, he said, Jews are kept out of certain positions "due to the fear that Jews might come into contact with Jewish communities outside the Soviet Union."

"But probably the place to start," he declared, "is with the religious community. A universal effort must be made to have the synagogue restored and to have the Russian Jews enjoy the freedom of using their religious symbols. We must insist on the restoration of the synagogues, hope that that would be a beginning, and hope that other tangible results, would follow toward the solution of the Jewish problem in the USSR."

Professor Lewis Feuer of the University of California, who recently returned from an extended stay in the Soviet Union, reported at the Conference: "The Jewish people are allowed to exist. It is their culture which is being extirpated. The Soviet’s assimilation’ of the Jewish community is planned from above, directed from above and enforced through sanctions and the making unavailable of books and teachers, "This is culturocide-the murder of a culture–and inherently destructive of human freedom."

Other speakers included Prof. Horace M. Kallen; Arthur Miller, playwright and author; Max Hayward, oxford fellow and translator of "Dr. Zhivago", Maurice Hindus, author of "House Without a Roof, " a study of life in the Soviet Union; Dr. Meyer Schapiro, professor of art history at Columbia University; and Dr. Moshe Decter, director of Jewish Minorities Research.

In addition to Bishop Pike and Justice Douglas the sponsors of the Conference included the Rev, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a leader of the Negro integration movement; Walter Reuther, vice-president of the AFL-CIO and president of the United Auto Workers; Norman Thomas, veteran Socialist leader; former U.S. Senator Herbert H, Lehman; and Robert Penn Warren, famous American novelist and poet.

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