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October 30, 1987 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-10-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Berries 'n Bon Bons

ATTENTION: PARENTS OF COLLEGE STUDENTS!

Send a survival kit full of
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Sun Control Products

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Rabbi Leonid Feldman in Detroit.

A Refusenik Rabbi
Has Mission In US.

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Special to The Jewish News

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Both Stores Closed Tuesday, .November 3
ST ARTS WEDNESDAY IN DETROIT
Major Credit Cards or Dittrich Financing
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01°

16

FRIDAY, OCT. 30, 1987

hen we were refuse-
niks the KGB said
to us, 'Who do you
think you are? You think
Americans care about you?'
Well, maybe the KGB was
right?' With these remarks
former refusenik Rabbi
Leonid Feldman, 34, opened
his three-week lecture series
in Detroit last week.
Speaking to 65 Hadassah
members as Bergman scholar
at Midrasha College of
Jewish Studies, Rabbi
Feldman commended
Hadassah for making the
issue of Soviet Jewry a priori-
ty. He called on all Americans
to teach their children to
understand Soviet society.
As the child of assimilated
Jewish parents, Leonid knew
nothing of his Judaism. When
he was eight, the first man
was sent into space from the
Soviet Union, a major event
in the lives of all Soviet
citizens. When the cosmonaut
returned, he was asked if he
had seen god. His confirma-
tion that there was no god
reinforced Leonid Feldman's
developing belief in atheism.
If the Soviet Union has a
religion, Rabbi Feldman said,
Lenin is the religion. As a
schoolboy, Feldman was
rewarded with the highest
possible honor, a trip to
Moscow to visit Lenin's tomb.
He received a send-off by half
his town. In Moscow, he was
awakened at 3 a.m. and
waited in line for six hours in
20-degree February weather
so that he could catch a
glimpse of Lenin's tomb as he
marched by.
Rabbi Feldman supports
direct talks with Lenin's suc-
cessors, but wants Americans

to recognize that the main
Soviet goal is to spread Com-
munism around the world.
Americans must learn as
much as possible about the
Soviets, he said, then come to
the negotiating table from a
position of knowledge and
strength. He firmly believes
that the world is more
respectful of a strong, forceful
administration.
Feldman's Jewish identity
and Zionism developed after
a secret reading of a Jewish
history book: His application
for an exit permit in 1974 was
rejected and he became a
refusenik. His determination
to leave increased when his
three-year-old nephew said, "I
don't like Jews . . . when I
grow up I'm going to take a
gun and kill them!'
Feldman reacted to the
child's statement with a
hunger strike in a public plea
to leave the soviet Union. He
was immediately imprisoned,
but his tactics were effective.
When he was released from
prison a month later, in June
1976, he was sent directly to
Israel.
In Israel, at age 22, he
became active in causes for
Soviet Jewry. As an ardent
secular Zionist he was
disturbed by the tensions
within Israeli society, bet-
ween Ashkenazim and
Sephardim, between the ex-
tremely religious and the
non-religious. He earned a
master's in education at
Hebrew University and
taught in Israel before taking
a job with the American Joint
Distribution Committee in
Rome in 1979. At the time
there were thousands of
Soviet Jews in Rome, waiting
for up to nine months for the
U.S. to process their refugee
applications. His job was to
educate them to become pro-

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