return to Home page    Cleveland and the Freeing of Soviet Jewry     

Involvement in the Soviet Jewry Movement — by Louis Rosenblum
The Government of Israel — The Elephant in the Room
Enforcer or Loose Cannon?

Enforcer or Loose Cannon?

I have put aside till now discussion of Dr. Yoram Dinstein, the Office representative in the New York Consulate, because his role in my story is rather unsavory. For the first couple of years that Dinstein was at the consulate, our relations were casual: little more than a perfunctory exchange of greetings at a national or regional meeting. So it came as a surprise when, prior to the April 1968 American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, I received a phone call from him at my NASA office. Without pretext, he launched into a tirade: accused me of inciting Hillel Levine, a Jewish Theological Seminary student, to mount a disruptive protest at the upcoming AJCSJ meeting. (A ludicrous accusation, as Hillel was manifestly his own person, see interview with Hillel, below.) He wound up with a threat: “I shall see to it that my government destroys you.” It was surreal. I responded calmly as I could, “you have no right to threaten anyone with destruction” — and hung up.

The next unpleasantness from Dinstein occurred March 1, 1970, following a two-day Midwest Regional Conference on Soviet Jewry, held in a downtown Cleveland hotel. Since the airport was on the way home, I proffered a ride to Dinstein and three other out-of-town attendees: Harold Miller, a Chicago lawyer; Zev Yaroslavsky, Chairman, California Students for Soviet Jewry; and Abe Bayer, Coordinator, AJCSJ. Seated in front was Dinstein, and between us, my 15-year-old daughter, Miriam, who had attended the conference; the others were in the rear. As we neared the airport, Dinstein — quiet all along — blurted out, “You people are doing everything you can to destroy the Soviet Jewry movement.” Mystified, I asked what he meant. He said, “I hear you are setting up a new organization.” “Yes,” I answered, “it's no secret.” “If you go ahead with this,” he declared, “I’ll see that you are destroyed — all of you.” A hush. Thinking of my young daughter, I turned to him and said sharply, “Yoram, shut up.” And he did. An uneasy silence followed, unbroken till we reached the terminal and made hurried goodbyes.

For me, Dinstein’s threats were tiresome hyperbole. Yet, for the vulnerable, there were consequences. I know two students activists who suffered from his ire. One was Hillel Levine (mentioned above). Believing Hillel had defied his diktat, Dinstein retaliated by attempting to poison the student’s standing with his mentor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Dr. Abraham J. Heschel. To read an interview with Hillel touching on his fraught relations with Dinstein, click here. Read the interview.


Yoram Dinstein Hillel Levine Zev Yaroslavsky Yitzhak Rabin

Zev Yaroslavsky, a UCLA student and head of the California Students for Soviet Jewry was another who ran afoul of Dinstein. In a letter to me Zev wrote that Dinstein phoned him April 16, 1970 with an ultimatum: drop the association of your California student group with the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews or in two to three weeks you will no longer be working for the Federation. Zev ignored the threat; and, on April 27th, his boss at the Greater Los Angeles Federation informed him that his employment was terminated. To read the entire letter, click here.

After this last incident, I had more than enough of Dr. Dinstein. So, for the record, I wrote to Israeli Ambassador, Yitzhak Rabin, concerning Dinstein’s manifold threats and acts “in a manner to suggest interference by your government in American Jewish affairs.” Rabin acknowledged receipt of my letter three weeks later. To see the Rabin correspondence, click here.

next >  Office Overtures: Played Dolce


© 2009 Louis Rosenblum

Top of Page       Continue      Table of Contents      CJH Home