The Historic Case: Recalling Tragic Jewish
Experiences After Kishinev Pogrom of 1903
and America's Role in Battle Against Czarism
Kishinev In the Limelight: Proof Historically That Mild Protests Are Futile
Kishinev is in the limelight again! Sixty-eight years ago the pogrom
in that city aroused world protests. In every nook and corner of the United
States and in communities throughout the world, Christians were as out-
spoken as Jews in expressing their sense of horror over what had happened
under the czars. Now, under communism, Jews were. placed on ,trial, there
on charges so ludicrous that the Jewries of the world are aroused. What
about the voice of Christianity? Where is the sense of indignation of human-
ity? There is a lesson in the tragedy of nearly seven decades ago.
It was as a result of the tragedies in Russia, primarily after the
inhumanities in Kishinev, that the American Jewish Committee was found-
ed. That's when Jacob H. Schiff, Cyrus Sulzberger, Julius Rosenwald,
Louis Marshall and many of their associates came forth with a voice so
strong that mankind was aroused.
Shortly thereafter, the Jewish Publication Society issued a full-
length volume, "The Voice of America on Kishinev," in which were re-
corded the hundreds of protest meetings, the many scores of sermons in
churches, the innumerable editorials in newspapers throughout the land.
John Hay was a great Christian who served as secretary of state
under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt — the great
scholar who had studied Hebrew — then gained a permanent place in
American history as chief interpreter of our foreign policy under two
Hay first recorded his name in defense of Jews who were oppressed
in Romania. Then came the Kishinev outrages. Once again he played a
historic role in defense of oppressed Jews.
The Russian and Romanian questions first came to the fore during
the administration of President Rutherford B. Hayes. John Hay then was
acting secretary of state. On Oct. 22, 1880, he wrote a note regarding "the
expulsion of American citizens from Russian cities on no other ground
than profession of the Hebrew faith." He continued the role of champion
of religious freedom and on Aug. 11, 1902, he stated that the United States
"is constrained to protest against the treatment to which the Jews of
Romania are subjected, not alone because it has unimpeachable grounds
to remonstrate against the resultant injury to itself, but in the name of
humanity." Then it was as secretary of state that he registered a protest
against the violation by Romania of the Berlin Treaty of 1878 under which
Jews were to be accorded protection by Romania.
John Hay, humanitarian, had earlier expressed his personal feel-
1903. He did not succeed in securing assurances from Russia that there
would be better protection for Russian Jews, but he had interceded, and
President Roosevelt, in concert with him, expressed horror over the Kish-
John Hay, humanitarian, had earlier expressed his personal feel-
ings when he sent a personal check for $500 to a relief fund that was
established for Romanian Jews. Yet there were some who felt that not
enough was done for them. Jacob H. Schiff had written to him to express his
indignation and on May 30, 1903, Hay wrote to Schiff: "I feel precisely as
you do in regard to it, but you are free to express your feelings and I
It was in this exchange of letters that there was evidenced the state
of affairs effected by diplomacy and the caution that often prevents action.
A statement had been prepared by Bnai Brith for presentation to the
Russian Czar protesting the Kishinev pogrom. John Hay then said: "The
fact that no civilized government has yet taken action would bid us to pro-
ceed with caution."
In this statement, we have black-on-white proof of recurring eternal
caution which often militates against prevention of repetitive crimes against
humanity—the accursed genocide that is so abhorrent to humanity.
President Roosevelt did receive an organized Bnai Brith delegation
that protested against the Kishinev pogroms, and he told them: "In any
way by which beneficial action may be taken, it will be taken to show the
sincerity of the historic American position."
But all that ensued was a petition which czarism rejected and the
Russian ambassador to the United States, Count Cassini, pouring venom in
czarist language upon Jewry, thus adding insult to injury.
Is that experience being repeated today in the Communist language
of rejecting Jewish protests against indignities?
The Kishinev agitation against the Jews started with the murder on
Feb. 1, 1903, of a wealthy young Russian, Michael Ribalenko. His body was
found Feb. 22, 1903, and it developed that he was killed by a relative who
hoped to acquire his fortune. But the agitation against the Jews was pushed
with vigor by the notorious Khrushchevan anti-Semitic newspapers. The
rumor was spread that Jews had used the murdered man's blood for Pass-
over. The hoary blood libel instigated the April 1903 pogrom that lasted
for three days.
The Kishinev outrage affected 2,750 Jewish families, of whom 2,528
reported damages amounting to 2,332,890 rubles—about $1,190,000 in
American money at the rate of exchange of those years. The dead num-
bered 47, while 92 were severely wounded and 345 were less seriously
The protest petitions were signed by some of the nation's most
prominent citizens, including former President Grover Cleveland. The voice
of America spoke loudly against the discriminations, but the Russian Czar
was too powerful to be swayed from Khrushchevan's murderous insti-
It was the Kishinev pogrom more than any other incident that in-
spired mass migration of Russian Jews to the United States, some to other
countries, an impressive number to Palestine. Then Zionism became recog-
nized as the great libertarian movement in the ranks of men and women
who became the leaders in the establishment of new colonies in Eretz
The present experience is akin to that of 1903: Russian Jews are
clamoring for exit and Israel is their objective.
(Copyright, 1971, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Inc.)
who figured prominently
in "America's Voice on
Kishinev" after pogrom
JACOB H. SCHIFF
The Right to Publish and the Aim to End Injustice . . . U.S. Supreme Court's Historic Ruling
Supreme Court Justice William 0.
And why shouldn't the truth be
Douglas made the point, as a member known? Wouldn't it help a great deal
of the majority that upheld news- if we all knew exactly on what basis
papers' right to print material that the USSR made deals with Egypt?
had been judged as secret, that "the And if Israel is involved in secretive-
dominant purpose of the First ness, let that be known, too.
Amendment was to prohibit the wide-
Under present procedures, public
spread practice of governmental sup-
pression of embarrassing informa- documents are made known after a
certain lapse, some 25 or 30 years for
This poses many questions. It is secret American documents and a re-
understood that diplomats must have duced period that has recently been
the opportunities to negotiate agree- introduced in England. Much of the
ments with other governments se- data that is thus made public property
cretively in order not to be stymied had already been publicized, but the
in their talks by too much notoriety. basic details and the exact language
But—how long can such a practice of documents remained secret.
continue? A timely illustrative point
Common sense dictates that old
relates to current rumors about pos- rules be scrapped. When the world
sible resumption of diplomatic rela- becomes fully aware of injustices in
tions between Israel and the Soviet Vietnam, learns about the terrors
Union. How long can such talks be against Jews in Eretz Israel by Great
secret? Some one will surely tell tales Britain, United States mismanage-
out of the veiled discussions and the ment in foreign relations or any mis-
facts may become known even before carriage of Justice anywhere, there is
these lines reach their readers.
a chance of arousing public opinion
2—Friday, July 9, 1971
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
to correct errors. Perhaps common
knowledge of what goes on in the
secret diplomatic chambers will be
the means of ending or at least cur-
It may well be asked whether edi-
torial freedoms are unlimited. Does
a newspaper have the right to publish
any letter from any bigot, any attack
by man upon man, nation upon nation,
without checking upon the truth in
the insinuations? Certainly news-
papers have that right. But news-
papers also have the obligation to
judge fairly and honestly. When
nerNspayeta _ as ar community's
dailies itomie done all too often, give a
platform to anti-Semites in the guise
of the false euphemism of anti-
Zionism, when the lunatic fringe re-
sorts to anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic,
anti-Negro letter-writing and papers
let them express .their hatreds, they
render a great disservice to the coun-
try and to mankind.
We believe that newspapers gen-
erally do not stoop to such inde-
cencies. Because it has happened we
found it necessary to condemn it.
But newspapers in the m2,in feel
their responsibilities to their readers,
to their communities, to their nation,
to history and the truth that accounts
for historical records. The New York
Times and the other papers which
have published documents that were
judged as relevant for public usage
by our highest court utilized material
that might have been hidden in secret
vaults for at least another decade
and are making the truth known ,
about the sins of American leaders.
It would be sheer folly, nearly all the-
facts already having been known in
lesser detail, to claim that national
security was affected by what the
papers had risked to publish. A few
more such risks and we may have a
better world—provided what is pub-
lished is with a sense of honor and
for the elimination of human miseries
and war dangers.
A great day was recorded by the
Supreme Court when it ruled in favoi'
of a freer press.