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
Office Overtures: Played Dolce

Office Overtures: Played Dolce

The Office was doubtlessly upset by emergence of our independent national Soviet Jewry organization. It posed a threat to their control of the Soviet Jewry issue in the U.S. So a week following Dinstein’s bad-cop threat to destroy “all of you”, the Office good-cop phoned. It was Nir Baruch (the Office rep stationed in the Israeli Embassy). 

  Nir Baruch

 Nir Baruch >

He proposed that the Embassy act as go-between to resolve differences between the American Jewish Establishment and our grass root organizations. Specifically, he suggested we meet at the Israeli Embassy with “Jewish organizational staff people such as Phil Baum and Jerry Goodman.” On March 13th, after consulting my colleagues, I wrote to decline his proposal: “We consider that a meeting solely with staff personnel would be unproductive. Our continuing concern has been with the quality and quantity of the movement for Soviet Jewry…Its evident that the low level of effort reflects, in the main, policy decisions by the American Jewish organizations and your government. Accordingly, it might be of value to exchange views with executive directors and presidents of national organizations and members of your government who are in a position to influence policy.” My letter produced no response. To view the letter, click here.

The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews was formally launched April 6, 1970. In a letter to all the council heads I wrote: “We have now formalized our loose confederation of grass-root organizations. As agreed by all, we shall continue to supplement and complement the work of the AJCSJ and act as a “loyal opposition” to spur the national organizations to greater activity. We shall avoid guiding our policy or action by the political exigencies of either the governments of Israel or the United States.”

In August, Nir Baruch phoned with an urgent message: “Mr. Levanon [now, head of the Office] will be in Washington for a short visit and wishes to meet with you.” I was intrigued: what was the sly fox of Kfar Blum up to now? When I arrived at the Israeli Embassy several days later, I was ushered into his presence. He was cordial but reserved. He began by stating that he, personally, wanted me to understand that his office was taking a more open view to releasing information regarding Soviet Jews. Good, I responded, we’d welcome that. But let’s talk takhleet (‘practical purpose’). There are a few things your office can do to help us promote greater activity in behalf of Soviet Jews. Specifically, would you 1) provide names and addresses of Jews who have applied to leave for Israel, so that cards and letters can be mailed to them; 2) provide telephone numbers of applicants; and 3) permit a few recent arrivals from the Soviet Union to tour the U.S. and speak publicly of their experiences?

Regarding the first item, Nehemyah promised to send me a list of several hundred names. (Levanon’s ‘list’ arrived at the end of the year: incomplete and out of date. The deficiency was evident when compared to information from Ann Shenkar and the Action Committee of Newcomers from the Soviet Union in Israel, who provided us with regularly updated lists of aliya applicants and new arrivals in Israel.) In regard to my request for telephone numbers, Nehemyah demurred, stating that telephone calls to Soviet Jews put them in danger. (This was in direct contradiction to advice I received from Soviet Jewish activists.) As to my last request, he said he would send Soviet olim to the U.S.; but “visits would be managed discretely — only ‘parlor’ meetings, no public appearances and no radio, TV appearances or newspaper interviews.” So much for the Office’s new openness. As the French proverb has it, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

next >  Office Control Crumbles


© 2009 Louis Rosenblum

Top of Page       Continue      Table of Contents      CJH Home