THE STORY OF THE JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE Page 7
Chapter 1: Soviet Jewry: I Am My Brother’s Keeper
 
 
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Soviet Jewry 7

bto help us out—to the tune of $5,000. With the mention of bthis sum, we knew we were on the right track.

bWhat right track? Our right track was, of course, precisely bthe worst one imaginable in the eyes of most people.

b“I’ve never seen a more blatant example of hooliganism in bmy life.” This comment by Robert Bernstein, Director of the bIsland Concert Hall on Long Island, was prompted by a bdisruption of a Soviet concert arranged by him. This Roslyn b(beautiful neighborhood) man watched in horror as Valery bKlimov’s January 31 violin encore at Garden City High bSchool was interrupted by thirty-five raging JDL members bwho raced past two policemen and stormed the stage.

bAfter the frightened artists had been herded backstage bthe police cleared the hall and the concert resumed to a bsignificantly smaller audience. A furious Bernstein said: b“The actions of this group are doing nothing but embarras- bsing the Jews in America.” He added that the cultural ex- bchange program was “the best thing we have going with the bSoviet Union right now” and that while he “may sympathize bwith the plight of the Jew in the Soviet Union, we should not bhave to stoop to such levels to protest.”

bIn Bernstein’s statements were mirrored all the tragedy of bthe assimilated, insecure, and indifferent American Jew. bWhat worried the Bernsteins of America was not Soviet bJewry (they had not once opened their mouths on their bbehalf) but “embarrassment” or, worse, the fear that anti- bSemitism might be directed against them. The statement bthat Bernstein gave to the press was quite probably the very bfirst public comment he had ever made on Soviet Jews. This, bin itself, proved the effectiveness of the JDL’s major role: to bserve as a gadfly that would force American Jews into stands bthat they would otherwise never have taken. If Bernstein babhorred “stooping” to JDL “levels” at least he might now be bforced to make the kind of respectable protest that he would bnever have made without JDL “hooliganism.”

bJewish militants not only did not stop their attacks upon bSoviet cultural programs but escalated them. A photo- bgraphic exhibit brought over from the Soviet Union and put bon display at Huntington Hartford’s museum in Manhattan bwas attacked and defaced in March. On April 29, a national b 

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THE STORY OF THE JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE Page 7
Chapter 1: Soviet Jewry: I Am My Brother’s Keeper