THE STORY OF THE JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE Page 24
Chapter 1: Soviet Jewry: I Am My Brother’s Keeper
 
 
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24 The Story of the Jewish Defense League

bHirschel Schacter, chairman of the American Jewish Con- bference on Soviet Jewry, said that “we condemn the violent btactics of the JDL.” In a classic demonstration of his inability bto understand even at that late date, Schacter declared that b“the JDL played into the hands of the Kremlin by diverting bpublic attention from the real crime, the suppression of bJewish life in the USSR.” JDL calmly pointed out that Rabbi bSchacter’s statement would never have seen the light of bprint had not the events been deemed interesting enough to bprint—thanks to the JDL. In any case, said JDL Executive bDirector Larry Fine, “a great many Jews have simply grown btired of the do-nothingness of the American Conference on bSoviet Jewry.”

bThat week saw JDL picketing of the US Mission to the UN bto demand an end to trade, disarmament, space, and cul- btural talks with the Russians; a JDL “art exhibit” of perse- bcuted Soviet Jews outside the Museum of Modern Art, bwhere two Soviet Picassos were displayed; a sit-in at the bUnited Federation of Teachers for sponsoring tours to the bUSSR; a takeover of the Columbia Artists Management bCorporation for sponsoring Soviet cultural troupes; and bpicketing of the New York Board of Rabbis for “operating bunder false pretenses.”

bAnd then, on December 24, a Soviet court, in a trial held bon camera, sentenced the Leningrad Twelve. Most received bstiff prison terms ranging from four to fifteen years, but bMark Dimchitz and Edward Kuznetsov were sentenced to bdeath. As the news flashed across the wires, the phones at bthe JDL offices never stopped ringing. It was a measure of bthe real success of the group that, at the moment of truth, bboth the public and the news media turned to them with the bquestion: What do you intend to do?

bNo one cared about the other Jewish groups because bwhen the moment of crisis was at hand all admitted that they bwere irrelevent, impotent, helpless, and hapless. It was at bthe JDL that phones rang and the news media asked: What bdo you plan to do?

bAnd on the spot came the answer that was to save the lives bof the two Russian Jews: “Two Russians for every Jew.”

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THE STORY OF THE JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE Page 24
Chapter 1: Soviet Jewry: I Am My Brother’s Keeper