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December 11, 1987 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-11

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raised their
voices in
Washington on
behalf of Soviet

Anatoly Sharansky leads the rally in song.

`Let Our People Go!'

Freedom Sunday was the culmination of 15 years'
effort on the part of American Jewry on behalf
of their Soviet brethren




, or all the dignitaries and

political leaders who did the
speaking, it was the name-
less, faceless masses — a re-
cord 200,000 strong — who
were the story of the Freedom Sunday
rally in Washington.
And that was only fitting. For
they were demonstrating on behalf of
the nameless, faceless masses of
Soviet Jews, at least 400,000 of them
who have sought to leave for Israel
and freedom. _
It is the well-known few who
receive most of the attention, whether
it be the prominent speakers on the
podium in Washington on Sunday or
the long-time refuseniks who have
been released from the USSR in re-
cent months. But this rally — the
largest Jewish demonstration ever
held in Washington — and indeed the
15-year struggle on behalf of Soviet



Jewry, has proved that, in the words
of Elie Wiesel, "while some are more
famous than others, all Jews are
equally worthy of redemption."
And so, on a clear, cold afternoon
in December, on the eve of the U.S.-
USSR summit, the message from
speaker after speaker to Soviet leader
Gorbachev was loud and clear: Let all
our people go. Not just the well-known
refuseniks, but any and all Jews who
wish to express their human rights by
leaving the USSR. For we will not
stop protesting until they are free.

Sharansky Vindicated
Of the dozens of speakers, Natan
Sharansky was greeted with the
largest ovation. It was Sharansky, the
embodiment of the struggle to free
Soviet Jewry, who became its cons-
cience as well in recent months as he
traveled the breadth of the United
States, goading American Jews into
participation in this rally. American
Jewish leaders were angered by his

"It is we, it is our struggle which
makes governments in the free world
strong;' he said. "It is our struggle
which can make the Soviet govern-
ment willing to open the gates of the
Soviet Union!'
He stressed the need to continue
the effort. "If Soviet Jews are not
free," he said, "then all Jews are not

A Variety Of Speakers

There were about 20 speakers in
all, with Vice President George Bush
initial calls for 400,000 people to at- receiving the most media attention.
tend, but in the end he was vindicated He was warmly applauded when he
for asking, for demanding, that said "the human rights issue is now
American Jewry make an extraor- a permanent part of the U.S.-Soviet
dinary effort on the eve of the Reagan- agenda. It will be high on the agen-
Gorbachev summit And as he stood da for the summit. I will personally
at the speaker's platform and looked raise it with Mr. Gorbachev. I will not
out at the vast outpouring of humani- be satisfied until the promise of
ty, from virtually every state in Helsinki is a reality."
The Vice President said "it would
America, he smiled widely as he pro-
claimed: "How many times did I hear be easier, safer, more diplomatic to re-
it was impossible to get hundreds of main silent — to negotiate our
thousands of people to march in treaties and never raise the question
Washington in the winter?" he ask- of human rights. But that would be
ed. "And yet look, it is winter and you untrue to ourselves, and it would
break our promise to the past."
are here.
"And how many times," he con-
He called on the Soviet leader to
tinued, "did I hear that the Soviet. prove the reality of glasnost by releas-
gates of emigration cannot be open- ing not only a handful of refuseniks
ed?" But, he asserted, world Jewry "but thousands, tens of thousands —
has protested and the gates have been all those who want to go." Bush end-
ed by shouting, "Mr. Gorbachev: Let
Sharansky said that emigration these people go. Let them go!"
Some speakers expressed anger,
depends neither on President Reagan
nor on Gorbachev, but rather on the like New York Mayor Ed Koch, who
conscience of Jews around the world. noted that Jewish demonstrators in


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