THE STORY OF THE JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE Page 22
Chapter 1: Soviet Jewry: I Am My Brother’s Keeper
 
 
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22 The Story of the Jewish Defense League

bcome up with huge signs in Russian calling for freedom for bthe Jews, insulting (but legal) recorded messages relayed by bmicrophone to the embassy (such messages could include bsome aimed at the children of the diplomats, calling upon bthem to ask their parents why Jews were not free in Russia), bdaily “prayer services” for Russian Jews on the balcony bwhere the Russians could see and hear them and so on. The blist is infinite but the capacity of the synagogue’s Rabbi bArthur Schneier and his Upper East Side Board of Respect- bables to do something a bit courageous on behalf of Russian bJews was tragically finite.

bIn any case, on December 20, as the date for the Lenin- bgrad trial drew closer, more that fifty members of the JDL boccupied the synagogue. Moving onto the balcony directly bacross from the Soviets, they draped banners all over the bside of the synagogue, sang Hebrew songs to the furious bRussians, and shouted Russian phrases at them which, for bsome reason, turned them purple with rage (I never learned bwhat the phrases meant nor where our sheltered young bJews learned them).

bRabbi Schneier and the Board of Trustees pleaded with bus to leave and I sympathized with the poor rabbi, who had baged visibly because of the JDL occupation of his bsynagogue. I told him that we could not leave because “we bwant to turn your institution into a shul (synagogue).”

bAs the day wore on, Rabbi Harold Gordon of the do- bnothing New York Board of Rabbis bitterly protested the boccupation and the institution’s Board of Trustees met to b(1) dissociate themselves from the occupation of their own bbuilding (which was logical) and (2) call upon the JDL to bleave (which was not). From time to time the police would battempt to come up and we warned them that if they tried to beject us forcibly, blood would flow in the synagogue. Each btime the board heard that, they would recoil in horror and bask the police to leave.

bI suppose that we really had come to turn that institution binto a synagogue, for the first time in so many years. It, like bso many other Jewish gilded mausoleums, symbolized all bthat had gone wrong with the American Jewish community. b 

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THE STORY OF THE JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE Page 22
Chapter 1: Soviet Jewry: I Am My Brother’s Keeper