To the Editor:
I read with great interest Maurice Friedberg’s “Soviet Jewry Today” [August]. It is hard to imagine a better summary of the current situation of Jews in the USSR, but it might be of some interest to your readers to point out that in one important respect the “inability to view the subject of Soviet Jews within a general Soviet framework,” of which Mr. Friedberg complains, is even more widespread than he seems to realize. For at least the past decade, while our news media have been giving increasingly glowing accounts of post-Stalin liberalization, the oppression of religion and of the non-Russian half of the Soviet population has been steadily worsening. It is certainly true that this pattern, although general, is not uniform; it is also true that the Jews are in several respects the most vulnerable, and at the same time the most brutally assaulted, of the communities involved. But they are not isolated exceptions to an otherwise generous Soviet policy. I mention as examples the forced closing of many thousands of Russian Orthodox Churches that began in 1959; the wave of arrests of writers and other cultural leaders in the Ukraine that began in 1965; the suppression in 1959 of the movement for national integrity headed by E. Berklavs in the Latvian CP—and many more could be adduced. On the whole, the American media have been utterly irresponsible in failing to report these developments, and it is only the Jews who have been able to break through this pattern to any significant degree.
In contrast to what anyone else has done, the achievement of the American Jewish community in the twofold task of informing first itself and then the general public about the persecution of Soviet Jewry is outstanding, however short it may fall of what could and should be done. Had other Americans with a special responsibility for one of the persecuted communities in the USSR achieved anything comparable, we would not have needed last year’s atrocity in Czechoslovakia to dispel the golden haze with which we like to surround Soviet affairs. . . .
Stephen C. Reynolds
University of Oregon