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May 11, 1984 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-05-11

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Friday, May 11, 1984



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Soviet Jewry tactics

Continued from Page 4

munities around the world, these cri-
tics maintain, is secondary.
Jerry Goodman, executive direc-
tor of the National Conference on
Soviet Jewry, denies there is any si-
lence in the Jewish community re-
garding Soviet Jewry. What he ac-
knowledges, however, is that the
1980s are different than the 1970s.
"We're using different ap-
proaches today," he said in an inter-
view. "That's why we mobilized the
(U.S.) Congressional wives' group.
That's why we have a freshman class
of members of Congress. It's not a
time when people are going to go out
and demonstrate in the streets — on
any issue."
He noted the absence of any
major street demonstrations in the
United States in recent years by the
peace movement or the black com-
munity — with the notable exception
of the recent 20th anniversary Mar-
tin Luther King memorial march in
Washington. "That was as much the
result of nostalgia as anything else,"
Goodman said.
"I just think it's a different time,
a different era and, therefore, people
approach these problems differ-

Ten years ago, even five
years ago, we could
measure - things by
demonstrations. Today is
not a time of

He said it was always the case
that only a tiny percentage of the
overall Jewish community was
actively involved. You only have a
small group of people who took the
burden of leadership. You never had
masses. If we get 50,000 or 100,000
people in New York City to a rally,"
he continued, "it's the result of two
dozen people who labored like man-
iacs. And others will then fall into
place. It was always so."
Movements, he noted, are basi-
cally always a small group of indi-
viduals. "The Jewish activist move-
ment in Russia was the creation of a
small group of people," he said.
"Others join on. If the gates open up,
others will pour through. If nearly
270,000 Jewish people got out of the
Soviet Union in the last decade, I
don't think that more than a total of
5,000 — over all those years — were
real activists. The others got out be-
cause that small group of several
thousand fought.
"When we had petitions coming
out of the Soviet Union, we never had
more than a couple of hundred people
on any one document at any time.
That's the nature of movements."
Goodman insisted he was not
worried about the critics' cries of si-
lence in the American Jewish com-

munity today. "I'm glad that we have
that small group. What we have to do
is make sure that that small group
gets the others excited — and
through them non-Jews as well."
Still, the one negative develop- -
ment right now in the Soviet Jewr,
movement, according to Goodman, is--
the likelihood that there is not going
to be any major breakthrough on the
issue until after the U.S. Presidential
elections in November. "But you
don't measure success," he said, "only
by numbers. That's easy to measure.
The fact is that there are a lot of
people out there, and what's exciting
in Jewish life is that there are
younger leaders coming in, many of
whom have been to the Soviet Union,
but not all of them. Some of them
have met activists in Israel. These
are people in their 30s and early 40s.
They're . coming into leadership posi-
He cited the session on Soviet
Jewry at the March meeting in
Washington of the Young Leadership
of the United Jewish Appeal. The
conference room was packed. It was
overflowing," he said. "People were
standing. I believe they were indica-
tive of the younger leadership group
that cares and wants to be involved,
and they're out there. But they are
involved in a different way."
One very dramatic and personal
way for American Jews to demon-
strate their own solidarity with
Soviet Jews is the Bar and Bat
Mitzvah "twinning" program. "We're
bonding people one to one," Good-
man said. What happens in that pro-
gram is that the American Bar or Bat
Mitzvah is given the name of a Soviet
Jewish boy or girl — a "twin" — who
might not be able to have a similar
ceremony because of official Soviet
harassment. The "twinning" pro-
gram, which is now occurring reg-
ularly in Orthodox, Conservative
and Reform congregations across the
country, has helped give the Bar
Mitzvah ceremony a new dimension
for contemporary American Jewry.
"I find people all over the coun-
try doing that as a way of linking
their families to the fate of Soviet
Jews," said Goodman. "We didn't do
that ten years ago."
"It's a different way of doing
things," he continued. "Ten years
ago, even five years ago, we coul 7
measure things by demonstrations--
It's not a time of demonstrations. It
may be again in the future."
To make his point that Soviet
Jewry was still very much on the
frontburner, he cited the recent
statements by President Ronald Re-
agan, Vice President George Bush,
Secretary of State George Schultz
and other high-ranking U.S. offi-
cials. They have done so, in large
measure, because they know that the
American Jewish community cares.
"I know what people are saying,"
Goodman said. And a lot of the cri-
tics, by the way, are the people who

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