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Involvement in the Soviet Jewry Movement — by Louis Rosenblum
The Government of Israel — The Elephant in the Room
In Contrast: An American Strategy

In Contrast: An American Strategy

In 1963, when we set up the Cleveland Committee on Soviet Anti-Semitism to advocate for Soviet Jews, it was a no-brainer. There were models to guide us. After all it was mid- 20th century America with advocacy groups aplenty, all stripes and sizes. The CCSA was to be public and inclusive and seek all the media attention and political support that could be garner for the cause. And when, a couple of years later, we realized that the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry was incapable of leading a credible national effort, we directed our attention to alternatives.

Khutzpedik (brazen) as it may seem, we soon drafted a strategy for the long haul — the product of confabs with Herb Caron, Dan Litt, Dave Gitlin and me. In a May 17, 1965 letter to Dr. Louis Nemzer, professor of history, Ohio State University, I outlined our conclusions:

“We in Cleveland are operating on the premise that vital to a solution of this problem is 1) the U.S. government on record as condemning Soviet anti-Semitic practices and 2) the U.S. government prepared to exact concessions, at an appropriate time, from the Soviet leaders involving cessation of their anti-Jewish policies. To bring this about, public opinion must be developed on this issue (as it was toward U.S.-Israeli relations). It is a long difficult task and not one that can be accomplished by a single rally or demonstration. It will require an ongoing effort in every sizable community in this country. The CCSA in Cleveland has been created for this purpose.”

To read the letter, click here.

And in a 1967 letter to the editor of the Cleveland Jewish News I list the vulnerabilities of the Soviet Union, which offer leverage to persuade an alteration of unfavorable and injurious Jewish policies.

“I would question your assertion that we in this country are helpless to aid our brethren in the Soviet Union. Let us try to separate myth from reality. It is true that Russia is a world power. However, Russia cannot go it alone. She requires the aid, cooperation, and good will of others, including the United States. This has been amply demonstrated in recent years. Let me give a few examples.

“In the economic sphere, the Soviet Union has attempted to increase trade with the West. The Soviet Union has purchased enormous quantities of wheat from the U.S. and Canada to offset serious crop failures. In addition, she seeks to increase the purchase of Western manufactured goods to meet consumer demand at home. For all these the Soviet Union needs dollars, which it hopes to get through the sale of goods and raw materials to the west.

“In the political sphere, the presence of a militant China on the Soviet Union's extensive eastern border is an ominous threat. The Soviet Union has sought and will seek rapprochement with the U.S. as a counter to this threat.

“In the ideological realm, the Soviet Union, as the traditional representative of communism, has been actively seeking to enlist the uncommitted nations of the world to communism. In its role of communist proselytizer and supposed champion of the downtrodden, the Soviet Union is quite sensitive to criticism that exposes its denial of human rights to its own citizens.…I would say that the Soviet Union today, because of its many needs, is responsive to outside pressure — moral as well as political and economic.”

To read the letter, click here.

With an eye on the North American scene, the executive board of the CCSA established, in 1966, an adjunct — the Council of Concern for Soviet Jewry — that I was pleased to manage. The mission of the CCSJ was to encourage and nourish growth of local councils in U. S. and Canada. That effort concluded four years later with the formation of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. In the fall of 1971, the UCSJ decided in convention to promote legislation in the U.S. Congress that would entail economic sanctions against countries that restrict freedom of emigration. This led to introduction of HR 14806, A Bill to amend the Export Administration Act of 1969 in order to promote freedom of emigration. Although the bill went down two votes short of approval by the Banking and Currency Committee of the House, it foreshadowed the Jackson-Vanik legislation introduced in Congress five months later.

The rest is history: success of political action over shtadlanut, private negotiations.

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© 2009 Louis Rosenblum

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