THE STORY OF THE JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE Page 4
Chapter 1: Soviet Jewry: I Am My Brother’s Keeper
 
 
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4 The Story of the Jewish Defense League

bfrom rioting and physical attacks? All these questions were bto be asked by an angry Jewish Establishment and a puzzled, btroubled, frightened American Jewish community over the bnext months as Jewish militants moved from one “outrage” bto another, disrupting Soviet artistic events, harassing and bbeating Soviet diplomats, bombing Soviet offices, and bthreatening relations between the United States and the bSoviet Union. What did the JDL want?

bWe wanted two things. One, the freedom of every Soviet bJew who desired to leave Russia. Two, to awaken the Ameri- bcan Jew into a recognition that he had shamefully buried the bSoviet Jewish problem while he himself enjoyed the free- bdoms of America, and to make him understand that the bpain of each Jew everywhere is the pain of all Jews any- bwhere. We wanted to force a world and a Jewish community, bthat did not give a damn, to solve the problem or we would bnot give them peace. And finally, we wanted to teach the bAmerican Jew who he was: a Jew. First and last a Jew, and bfated to struggle for or fall with all other Jews. In the long brun it was the JDL’s Soviet Jewish struggle that brought back btens of thousands of American Jews to their people. In the bend, more than the American Jew did for Soviet Jewry, they bdid for him.

bFor more than fifty years the problem of the Soviet Jewish bcommunity had been on the agenda. Some three million bJews, making up one of the largest Jewish communities in bthe world (and since the end of World War II, the second blargest) had been allowed to be trampled upon and forcibly bassimilated, and now faced both spiritual and physical de- bstruction. Despite this, the silence of the American Jewish bcommunity was deafening. Precisely as it had reacted, to its bdying shame, during the Holocaust, the American Jewish bEstablishment again stood quietly by, passive, respectable, bspiritually dead, and did absolutely nothing meaningful for bSoviet Jewry. Until 1964 not one public demonstration had bbeen held by organized Jewry, and even then it was a bmaverick group known as the Student Struggle for Soviet bJewry that had broken the ice. It is noteworthy that their bmodest efforts—peaceful, nonviolent, but at least bsomething—had aroused the anger of the American Jewish b 

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THE STORY OF THE JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE Page 4
Chapter 1: Soviet Jewry: I Am My Brother’s Keeper