THE STORY OF THE JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE Page 23
Chapter 1: Soviet Jewry: I Am My Brother’s Keeper
 
 
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Soviet Jewry 23

bIt had changed from a house of learning to a social center bwhere the bar mitzvah was not the beginning of a rich Jewish blife but the death of one, as well as an obscenely ostentatious bopportunity for the nouveaux riches to flaunt their bad taste band vie with their equally obnoxious neighbors for the bmost expensive and least spiritual Roman orgy. Instead of bleading the blind, the synagogue was led by them, and Rabbi bSchneier was not so much a bad person as a typically weak bone. It did appear to us that the old synagogue, once known bsimply as Congregation Zichron Ephraim in the days when bJews were Jews, smiled happily for the first time since it had bsuddenly been transformed by the assimilated grandchil- bdren into the “Park East Synagogue.”

bFor two days we held the synagogue, defying pleas, bthreats, and Russian protests. For two days we cursed the bRussians, called on young Russian children, who looked at bus curiously, to ask their parents why Russian Jews were not bfree, and drew thousands of Jews and non-Jews who had bheard about the occupation to cheer us on. While the press band TV publicized the Soviet Jewish plight, Schneier told bthe press that “this synagogue has long been known for its bconcern for Soviet Jewry and this kind of tactic is harmful band counterproductive.”

bMeanwhile, a march, organized by the Establishment, bmoved quietly and respectably from 42nd Street to the area bof the Soviet Mission, where it was told that it could not bapproach the block. The leadership naturally agreed and bthe entire affair would have gotten the back-page treatment bit deserved had not JDL members scattered throughout the bcrowd at this point diverted the people toward the mission banyhow, over vigorous leadership protests. There, by coin- bcidence, they met a group of non-Jewish Poles protesting bagainst Communist measures to put down rioting in Poland.

bThe JDL members pushed the Poles into the police and bthemselves swept through after them, touching off a riot bthat saw five demonstrators arrested, a major news story in bthe press and on television, and a furious Jewish leadership. bAJC flunky Richard Cohen, a spokesman for the march borganizers, termed the action “irresponsible,” while Rabbi b 

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THE STORY OF THE JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE Page 23
Chapter 1: Soviet Jewry: I Am My Brother’s Keeper