To the Editor:
Mark Richards’ article “The Answer to Soviet Anti-Semitism” [September], reflects the wooliness and faith which consume all liberals in their approach to the Soviet Union. After pages dealing with Soviet belief in the “Protocols of Zion,” liquidation and massacre of Jews, isolation of Jews, and many other kinds of persecution both new and old, Mr. Richards concludes that a Jewish exodus from Russia is possible. And why? Because of possible embarrassment to the logic of the Soviet’s position.
But what or who is to be the agent of embarrassment? . . . Or is embarrassment to be simply self-induced?
Mr. Richards’ theory that Russian anti-Semitism is based on the dispersal of the Jews (i.e., no home base within the Soviet empire), is simply yielding to Russian anti-Semitic logic. Can anyone visualize Jewish history for the past 2,000 years without dispersion? The hiatus in Russian endemic anti-Semitism was caused by a leadership of Western educated revolutionaries. Stalin closed that historical gap. . . .
After reading about “the nihilism of our times” in another one of COMMENTARY’s articles, it seems to me that Mr. Richards should have concluded with a prayer that God and/or history should not desert the Jews again as He/it did in the days of Hitler.
Julius R. Cogan
Israel Histradrut Campaign
To the Editor:
I agree with Mark Richards that the Soviet leaders consider their Jews to be “security risks,” i.e. politically unreliable. However, I do not agree with his argument that the reason lies in the fact that Soviet Jews are a part of a nationality group, the majority of which live in the free world. . . .
There exists a fundamental incompatibility between Judaism and Communism. Judaism is a culture—an inner world of spiritual values, moral attitudes, and emotional reactions. Judaism can, therefore, exist either in an atmosphere of cultural freedom, or of cultural isolation. Communism, however, demands cultural uniformity and undivided emotional loyalty. It does not allow either cultural freedom or cultural isolation. Thus, where Communism rules, Judaism must disappear. . . .
Mark Richards is right when he sees a “vicious cycle” situation—the more the Jews are being eliminated as “security risks,” the more they psychologically oppose the Soviet system, and the more “unreliable” they become. However, I do not believe that the Soviet leaders will break this “cycle” by allowing an exodus of Soviet Jews. . . . Nothing in Soviet history or Communist ideology . . . serves as a basis for such an assumption.
United Restitution Organization
New York City
Mr. Richards writes:
Certainly I would be prepared to agree with Dr. Gringauz about the fundamental intellectual and spiritual incompatibility of Communism and Judaism. But this fact does not explain other significant phenomena:
- Communism is no more compatible with any other religion than it is with Judaism. Yet, as I pointed out, religious Jews in the USSR are subjected to substantially greater discrimination and harrassment than other religious groups.
- The most extensive and devastating forms of Soviet anti-Jewish policy have been applied not to Judaism as a religion, for all the disabilities imposed in that sector. . . . As I stressed in my article, it is the least Jewish of Jews . . . who have been hardest hit by rank anti-Jewish discrimination in party and government positions, and in educational and employment opportunities.
- Until about 1937—8—that is, under both Lenin and Stalin—these positions were, on the whole, readily available to Jews; and Yiddish culture remained quite alive until it and its practitioners were liquidated in the black years of 1948—53.
All of this suggests that reasons other than that of spiritual incompatibility have been at the root of Soviet policy during the last dozen years. The factors I cited are, I believe, necessary to explain that policy, and should be sufficient to exculpate me from Mr. Cogan’s excited attack upon me as a “wooly liberal.” . . .
His racism-in-reverse notion of an anti-Semitism endemic to any nation, is unacceptable scientifically and historically. . . . If Mr. Cogan is correct, he would have to explain the disparate policies pursued by Stalin himself in his earlier and later years.
As for the prospect of emigration, I wish to note that I stressed its feasibility primarily within a framework of a more realistic and rational policy toward the Jews. As I also stated, this policy is not discernible on the horizon, although Soviet leaders, including Khrushchev, have several times hinted at such a prospect. But surely no Jew would be averse to joining his devout prayer to Mr. Cogan’s for any such welcome changes.