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March 30, 1990 - Image 146

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-30

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Fully Appreciating Today's Exodus

Continued from Page L-1

freely, and young Soviet Jews go to
Israel and the United States to
pursue religious studies.
The second positive
development, affecting a larger
number of Jews, is the appearance
of some 200 Jewish cultural
organizations throughout the length
and breadth of the Soviet Union.
These groups are neither the tools
of the state nor dissidents opposed
to the system. They are simply Jews
who wish to study Yiddish and
Hebrew, learn about their history
and culture, and hear or perform
Jewish music, stage plays of Jewish
interest and explore and reconstruct
the physical remnants of East
European Jewish civilization.
Moreover, the official image of
the State of Israel has been
softened. Low level diplomatic
relations have been reestablished,
many cultural and sports groups
have been exchanged between
Israel and the USSR, and there is
substantial Soviet Jewish tourism to
Israel. The media no longer treat
Israel as one-sidedly as they once
did, and the press carries debates
on whether full diplomatic relations
should be restored immediately or
later.
The greatly increased volume of
emigration is for Westerners the
most visible and dramatic change.
There are still substantial numbers
of refuseniks, but the great majority
of applicants for emigration are
permitted to leave. But the
emigration is a symptom of the dark
and long shadows which have fallen
across Soviet Jewry.
Glasnost, or openness has
allowed people to express their
opinions and ideas more openly
than ever before in Soviet history. At
the same time, the deteriorating
economic situation and the
emergence of severe tensions
among various nationalities have
bred frustration and fear. These
have given rise to expressions of
virulent prejudice and hatred.

Since February 1988, over 600
people have been killed in inter-
ethnic clashes, mainly in the
Caucasus. In recent months, anti-
Semitic sentiments have been
expressed, often in extremely hostile

eChaffati

THE JEWISH NEWS

27676 Franklin Road
Southfield, Michigan 48034
March 30, 1990
Associate Publisher Arthur M. Horwitz
Jewish Experiences for Families
Adviser Harlene W. Appelman

L 2

-

FRIDAY, MARCH 30, 1990

ways, not only by uneducated
people but by some elements
among Russian writers and other
members of the intelligentsia. Jews
have been accused of dominating
Soviet cultural life while being
alienated from the mainstream of
Soviet, especially Russian, society.
They have been condemned for
emigrating, reviled for supposedly
despising the Russians, and even
accused of engaging in a
conspiracy — together with the
Masons (sic!) — to dominate the
world.
Pamyat (Memory) is the most
anti-Semitic Russian nationalist
group and it has threatened
physical violence to Jews. Several
parts of the country are rife with
rumors of pogroms. Since only a
few generations ago, 35,000 Jews
were killed in pogroms during the
Russian civil war (1918-1921), and
about 1.5 million died during the
Holocaust, almost all Soviet Jewish
families have personal memories of
the catastrophic consequences of
militant anti-Semitism. They are not

prepared to wait around and see
whether the current politcal
instability, economic crisis, and
social tensions will once again
result in Jews being hunted down in
a search for scapegoats.

The exodus of Soviet Jews is
both a challenge and opportunity.
Their resettlement in Isarel and
America requires a considerable
investment, one which will soon be
paid back in productivity and
creativity, as the earlier wave of
Soviet immigrants proved.

This year, at least 8,000 Soviet
immigrants will be the sole
responsibility of the American
Jewish communities, while 32,000
others will receive some forms of
government assistance in resettling.
The 70,000-100,000 Jews expected
to arrive in Israel will strain the
housing, employment and financial
resources of a country willing to
take twice as many Jews as the
United States with nowhere near the
latter's resources. There is an
urgency and immediacy to the

Soviet exodus which our
generations, living in the shadows of
the Holocaust, cannot ignore.

As Jews leave the USSR, they
are, in a sense, between Pesach
and Shavuot. They find physical
liberation, but the process of
spiritual and cultural regeneration
takes longer. Some time elapses
between leaving Egypt and
accepting the Torah. Generations
who knew only non-Jewish cultures
cannot be expected to embrace
Jewish culture immediately and
wholeheartedly.

"Maaseh avot siman I'banim"
— the experiences of our ancestors
are the paradigms of our own lives.
Our Soviet kin need help in finding
their ways out of spiritual and
cultural bondage, through the
wilderness, and, ultimately, toward
their own understandings of Jewish
life and culture. Pesach — liberation
— is the beginning of the
countdown to Shavuot —
acceptance of the Torah and the
reunification of the Jewish people.

Matzah Of Hope Has New Meaning

By KATHY OZERY

The Passover theme of the
Jewish exodus from Egypt is a
timely opportunity to reflect on the
theme of the Jewish exodus from
oppression in the Soviet Union.
"The Matzah of Hope" reading
which we incorporate into our
Passover seder was originally called
the "Matzah of Oppression" when it
was written in 1966. Passover is a
home-centered Jewish holiday
highlighting the theme of freedom
and exodus, and Passover foods,
such as bitter herbs, charoset and
matzah, are relevant today as
symbols of anti-Semitism,
oppression and the need for timely
redemption of Jews in oppressed
lands.
Americans are asked to add the
reading of solidarity to their regular
Haggadah readings in the days of
the burgeoning Soviet Jewry activist
movement. By 1967, the reading
was called the "Matzah of Hope"
and over 100,000 copies were
distributed throughout the United
States. Later, it was translated into
Hebrew, Yiddish, Spanish and
French as it was distributed
throughout the world. This year,
10,000 copies of the current reading
are being distributed in the Detroit
metropolitan area alone.
The "Matzah of Hope"
underwent revisions as the Soviet
Jewry movement gained
momentum. In the early days,
emigration was just a dream and

the priorities of the movement
centered on obtaining matzot and
prayer books for Soviet Jews. As
Soviet Jews became more assertive
and were imprisoned for their
actions, such as teaching Hebrew,
the "Matzah of Hope" was rewritten
to include the drama of the
Prisoners of Zion. Reunification and
repatriation of families soon became
dominant themes of the Soviet
Jewry movement and were reflected
in the "Matzah of Hope."
Today, more than 400,000
Soviet Jews have emigrated and
there are predictions that the
number could more than double in
the coming years. Today's issues
deal with resolving long-term

refusenik cases, the looming
spectre of anti-Semitism and the
issue of direct flights to Israel.
Ultimately, we are still seeking
freedom of cultural expression and
emigration for Soviet Jews, the
same basic freedoms which were
sought by our ancestors leaving
Egypt and which were addressed
when the "Matzah of Hope" was
written 24 years ago. We must
remain vigilant until every Jew is
free to celebrate the Passover Seder
wherever he/she chooses to live.

Kathy Ozery is a community affairs
associate, working on Soviet Jewry
issues for the Jewish Community
Council.

The Matzah Of Hope

Perform this ritual after setting aside the Afikomen. The leader of the
Seder takes up a fourth matzah, sets it aside and says:
This is the Matzah of Hope, a symbol of the
Jews of the Soviet Union, who for six decades
have existed in a cultural wasteland, unable to
learn about and live their Jewish heritage and
unable to leave.
We pause for a moment during the Seder to give thanks for the
many Soviet Jews for whom the Exodus became a reality during the
past year. We are heartened by the burgeoning of Jewish cultural
activities in the Soviet Union.
This Passover, we are mindful that many of our brothers and
sisters will wait for permission to emigrate. We are reminded that anti-
Semitism flourishes in the Soviet Union.
As we celebrate the freedom of our people, we re-dedicate
ourselves to the liberation of the Jewish people in the Soviet Union.

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