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April 10, 1987 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-04-10

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PURELY sommimmimm


Message Of Passover To Children Of All Ages

Every commemorative Jewish
function, all the festivals on our
calendar, have special significance for
children. In each there is a message
that carries historic weight. The
Passover theme is especially direct,
powerfully emphatic in the involve-
ment of the young who have a major
assignment in the cast of characters
in the Haggadah and thereupon in
the entire dramatic performance of
the first two nights introductory to
the enactment of the historic recollec-
The very introduction to the
theme — the mah nishtanah — of the
Seder is assignment to the youngest
in the family who has already learned
the value of the commitment to know
his portion in the recitation of the
Haggadah in Hebrew. Thereupon the
sharing of the values of the historic
event becomes obligatory upon all, in
the re-enactment of the memorable
and unforgettable. The dramatic reci-
tation commences with the mah
nishtanah of the youngest, then car-
ries into fulfillment with the ac-
ceptance of the assignation of u'gadta
le-binha, thou shalt teach it to your

children. The commitment becomes
obligatory for all ages.
It begins with questions and a
sharing in providing the explanatory
historic replies. Then comes the com-
mitment: the duty to teach the chil-
dren. Attached to that responsibility
is the uninterrupted involvement with
peoplehood and the committed aim to
learn the lessons well and never to
abandon the purpose.
This message from the Haggadah
has a broader aim. It is not limited to
learning the lessons of the Exodus.
The purpose is to know the Jewish
confrontations as they developed
through the ages, as they continued
year after year from Exodus to
Such is the duty of Jewish exist-
ence, that the People Israel under-
stands the faith that retains it, the
challenges that confront it, the cour-
age that is needed to hurdle obstacles
and to defy threats and dangers.
The challenges and the dangers
accumulated in a single period on this
very Passover. Even the evils that are
internal ask for an awareness on this
Festival of Freedom.

Current Birobidzhan Hoax

When a major television program
blunders, it's a beaut. That's what the
Sixty Minutes March 15 program
achieved. It was an apparently
engineered session, whitewashing the
Soviet Union in its failure to adhere to
human rights obligations, and glorified
a fake called a Jewish autonomous
region under the title Birobidzhan.
The "introduction" on that program
of Russian Jewish notables as
"loyalists" counteracting "refuseniks"
who demand the right to emigrate in
choosing a homeland they prefer serves
to defend the USSR restrictions. That's
shameful in itself. The repudiation of
the roles of refuseniks in its evident
minimization of a mass movement in
the human rights sphere by the hun-
dreds of thousands asking for exit visas
is deplorable. Even if their numbers
are exaggerated, the existence of re-
fuseniks who oppose Soviet prejudice
can not be denied and must be re-
It is the fashion in which the Sixty
Minutes program glorified Birobidzhan
that calls for condemnation and de-
mands both correction and apology.
The exaggeration and fabricating
of a Soviet-sponsored cause was ex-
posed on this page last week. The facts
about the current hoax called Birobid-
zhan were assembled by the authoritat-
ive expert of Russian Jewish affairs,
Dr. Allan L. Kagedan of the staff of the
American Jewish Committee.

Much more repellant is the histori-
cal data revealing the earliest Soviet
machinations in that area. In 1954, the
Select Committee on Communist Ag-
gression of the U.S. House of Represen-
tatives published a pamphlet entitled
"Treatment of the Jews Under Com-
munism." Many of the Stalinist prej-
udices against Jews were listed and
fully annotated in this report. Here,

Of all places, it may have begun
on Wall Street. It is not a matter to
be proud of. Men with great skills are
on the negative side of the moralities
we preach and boast about. We do not
apologize, even when every Jew feels
a sense of guilt when fellow Jews sin.
But like our non-Jewish fellow citi-
zens we condemn them as a minority
that regrettably draws more attention
than our moralists. We count upon
our youth to provide the answers, to
hold high the banner of ethical duties
to ourselves and to mankind. We look
to our youth to provide the answer to
greed and to all else that negates it.
Then there was and continues as
an agony of Jews, out of a love for the
State of Israel, those who have spied
on the United States, our best friend.
It is difficult to explain and to con-
done. It may never be repeated and
should not recur. Yet, it is the inter-
national failing that is the responsible
victimizer. There was a reminder on
this page in a comment last month,
that "spying was the world's second
profession. Prostitution was the first."
That's why the U.S. may have spied
on Israel as Israel spied on the U.S.

In both instances, the nations are the
friendliest on record, they were
knowledgeable and had the facts that
are treated as the criminally-obtained
secrets. Therefore, what was and con-
tinues to be assailed as the crime of
spying really turns out to be stupid-
ity. This is inexcusable stupidity.
That's how it is to be treated in the
anticipated continuing, perhaps


Mah Nishtanah

strengthening, U.S.-Israel friendship
and cooperation.
In the "teaching the son and
learning the lesson" of the Haggadah,
there are many urgencies. There can
be no strength to Israel's acknowl-
edged role in the international com-
munity without knowledge both of
what we are and how to counter
frequently-spreading falsehoods of
what we are not.

Continued on Page 32

Its Genesis, a Pogrom

too, the Birobidzhan propaganda also is
labelled "The Hoax of Birobidzhan."
In the Congressional expose there
are revelations of wholesale dis-
criminatory acts, of massive bigotries,
arrests, even murders. That's when
some Jews were misled into believing
there was a panacea. That also was a
time when Stalin planned a mass ex-
pulsion of Jews from Russia to be vir-
tually incarcerated in Siberia.
Here are the basic facts that were
exposed Congressionally about the ori-
gins of Birobidzhan which were actu-
ally a series of pogroms:

For 15 years, Birobidzhan
was advertised all over the
world as the most modern, most
progressive "solution of the
Jewish question." It was
praised as a bigger and better
Socialist Palestine, a paradise in
which Soviet Jews were volun-
tarily building a free, auton-
omous, productive, and happy
Jewish life. For many years
money was collected, equipment
bought, and enthusiastic volun-
teers sent to this new Jewish
paradise in the Far East.
Societies for the promotion of
Birobidzhan were organized all
over the world, with famous
names on their letterheads;
hundreds of thousands of dol-
lars were fraudulently collected
from gullible people to support
this "advanced experiment."

The committee heard as a
witness Mr. Herschel Wein-
rauch, a former Soviet citizen,
who had spent six years in
Birobidzhan, from 1932 to 1938,
working on the staff of the local
newspaper ...
More tragic than the mis-
appropriation of collected funds

was the fate of those Jews who,
believing Communist prop-
aganda, gave up their homes,
sold their belongings, and
moved to the Siberian paradise.
Mr. Weinrauch testified:

"Because of the propaganda
about the future Jewish State, a
lot of people from the United
States, Palestine, from Poland,
from Argentine, came to
Birobidzhan. A lot of them were
then arrested as spies."
The real story of Birobid-
zhan is described, with
documentary evidence, in chap-
ter XIII of Solomon M. Schwarz,
The Jews in the Soviet Union
(pp. 174-194), as well as in Mr.
Weinrauch's testimony.
Birobidzhan was a border
territory in Eastern Siberia,
consisting almost entirely of
virgin forest and swamp, with-
out roads and virtually uninha-
bited. It bordered on Man-
churia, a Chinese province
which was later occupied by the
Japanese. The infiltration of
Chinese settlers caused the
Soviet Government grave con-
cern ...
The Jewish colonization
was begun under an act prom-
ulgated in 1928. The establish-
ment of the territory as a
"Jewish Autonomous Province"
was announced in 1934.

But from the beginning, the
colonization was a dismal fail-
ure. The Jewish settlers, partly
volunteers, partly "recruited"
by irresistible pressure from the
authorities, arrived in the
wilderness without equipment
and agricultural training.

Statistics collected by Sol-
omon M. Schwarz show that
19,000 Jews arrived in the terri-
tory between 1928 and 1933, and
11,500 of them departed in the
same period. In the following
years new efforts were made to
force Jews to emigrate to
Birobidzhan, with the same
dubious result. Non-Jewish im-
migration (and deportation) to
Birobidzhan was a little more
extensive, and soon the majority
of the population was composed
of Russians, Ukrainians, Tatars,
and Koreans. For 1935, when
the number of Jews in Birobid-
zhan was highest, Mr. Wein-
rauch estimates the Jewish
population at 40,000, but he
adds that 50 percent of the Jews
were arrested in the subsequent
purges. For 1938, Solomon M.
Schwarz estimates the Jewish

Continued on Page 32

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Apr. 10, 1987

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