Sunday, December 06, 2009

Important Soviet Jewry Campaign Piece

It's here. A rewrite of this original blog post (which was heavily criticized at the time by many of the struggle leaders).

I am guessing that the headline, The real saviors of Soviet Jewry, was given by the editor.

I hope so, anyway.

Otherwise, someone is exaggerating.

You see, to write that it was only after Golda Meir, then Prime Minister, had been pressured by students to go public that "the campaign went worldwide and communities and organizations began to pressure the Soviet government" is an historic inaccuracy.

The Israel students rally forty years ago was quite important and crucial and made a major contribution to the struggle for Soviet Jewry seeking to leave or gain freedom of religion and culture. However, in no way did it cause the Israel government or even the Jewish Agency "to initiate the worldwide campaign for Soviet Jewry".

That campaign had been in existence, as an activist struggle of sit-ins, demos, mass rallies, writing campaigns, smuggling in literature to Russia and much more, since 1964.

The real "diamond" in this story is that Zvi Raviv and others were unaware of the problem in 1969!

Maybe they didn't read newspapers about diaspora events (unlike we who pored over newspaper reports on what was happening in Israel). That, of course, is indeed indicative of the low-keyed policies that the Israel government so mistakenly pursued then. Jewish youth in the United States had met Dov Shperling a year earlier and heard the truth and were galvanized to take to the streets. Geula Cohen spoke at Madison Square Garden's Felt Forum in front of thousands to influence us. Shlomo Carlebach had already performed his "Am Yisrael Chai".

Yes, the Israeli genesis "deserves recognition" and so does the activist worldwide genesis of 1964.


Here are some of the talkbacks:

This article's publication was preceded by many e-mails to Zvi Raviv & his wife Sheila by Soviet Jewry activists in Israel, the US and England pointing out to them that the public campaign began in 1963 in the US, boosted considerably by the creation of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry in 1964, with other activity from Establishment organizations. We explained that in 1969, in addition to Israeli student pressure on Golda Meir to speak out publicly, Soviet Jews in the USSR openly urged her to do so, as did Russian olim in Israel. Unfortunately none of the above was in the article. - Glenn Richter

There were many. One who deserves mention is Elie Wiesel whose book "The Jews of Silence" in 1966 was the first exposure that many Jews had to the situation of Soviet Jews. - Jonah

Wouldn't you think that readers would like to know that this article was written by the wife of the subject of it?? Sheila Silver RAVIV authored this piece about her husband--see her FB account for confirmation. Dave #2 and Avrom #7 are absolutely correct in their assertion about Israel's dismal role in the worldwide campaign on behalf of Soviet Jews. Zvi Raviv and Yona Yahav may have tried to change things but they surely weren't too successful in moving the sha shtill Israeli bureaucrats off their rear ends. Revisionist history promoted by the Jer. Post. - Judy Levitin

Thank you Glenn, founder of Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry , for clarifying the record. It would have been fine had Mrs. Raviv written about her husband's experiences and documented his efforts, but to extrapolate that it was those efforts in 1969 in Israel that sparked the worldwide movement is just plain not true, as attested to by those activists in the west whose efforts on behalf of Soviet Jews were stymied at every turn by Israeli arrogance and bureaucracy. It's also unconscionable that the Post chose not to inform readers about the relationship between the author and her subject. - Judy Lash Balint

Both article and title are quite incorrect. I coined the word REFUSENIK and knowing Russian became the main centre of information making over 5,000 phone calls from London to USSR in 20 years. The claim that Raviv "initiated" the world wide campaign is false - there was an active campaign with mass demos from 1963 in USA and the 35s in Britain against fierce opposition from Israeli Officials trying to sabotage and control and silence us giving no support whatsoever to Sharansky saying he was a dissident and not a concern of Israel until the moment he arrived at Ben Gurion in 1986. Michael SHERBOURNE - England

My book, TRIUMPH OVERF TYRANNY: The Heroic Campaigns that Saved 2,000,000 Soviet Jews,, shows how Louis Rosenblum and his colleagues in Cleveland, Ohio founded an organization of grassroots activists in 1963 that ultimately convinced the US government to legislate for free emigration of Soviet Jews. - Philip Spiegel


Anonymous said...

Everything you say here is right on! Thanks for correcting this horrible case of revisionist history.

Oh, and don't you think the Jerusalem Post should also have let readers know that the article was written by Zvi Raviv's wife??? Sheila Silver Raviv?

Anonymous said...

Sheila has written:

I really do not understand any of you!! I changed words, retracted, put things in and took things ort - and ran everything past Doreen Gainsford to ensure accuracy and she felt that the article as published was accurate and uncontestable and now you all still complain!!!!!!

Sorry but all your demands for changes were met...... BY ME . The story is accurate, the facts indisputable.

How do I dare publish the story? Because it is my right to do so in a free country.

How sad

Maybe she wasn't at all invovled in the struggle then and hasn't a clue?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Meidad's memory fails him. Dov Shperling came out of the soviet Union only at the end of 1968 and began his activities in 1969. His first visit to the US was in November of 1969.
Geula Cohen participated in the Rally in 1969 , after the decision was made by the Israeli Government. she was sent to the US by Yitzhak Shamir, then the deputy head of the Mossad in order to start the campaign that evolved from the Government decision

Anonymous said...

the funny/sorrowful thing is that her husband did actually play a pivotal part in the development of the struggle but instead of making the reality of those 1969 events what they were, she refuses to acknowledge what is obvious from her/his own story: where did Shperling come from? what was Golda trying to suppress - if not a worldwide struggle that was finally beginning to break out.

YMedad said...

My memory can fail me, Anon 7:08 AM but I received this:

Winkie: It was November 1968. - Glenn and I'm going with Glenn. And Geula was never "sent" by any Israel government. She was part of the independent operation with Yitzhak Shamir and Pesach Mor.

As for Dov in 1969 rather than 1968, possible and I won't argue that. I'll try to check because I was at the meeting where he and Yasha were kept out and that probably was 1969 although maybe Dov came earlier alone but I doubt it.