web analytics
September 3, 2015 / 19 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

How The Holocaust Influenced One Man’s Struggle For Soviet Jewry


Not that everyone saw it that way, Smukler acknowledged. “There were some mainstream Jewish leaders, such as Max Fisher and Jacob Stein, who advocated a kind of ‘sha-shtil’ approach. They argued that noisy protests would make things worse for Soviet Jews. They urged us to put our faith in the assurances offered by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that his ‘quiet diplomacy’ would convince the Kremlin to permit Jewish emigration.”

Smukler remembered running into similar attitudes and obstacles from officials of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “They had their own agenda – which was the agenda of whichever political party was in power at the moment – and they wanted to control our movement so they could shape it to suit their agenda.

“To me, this was a like a repeat of the 1940’s. There was no way we could follow such an approach. It had already been proven wrong – tragically wrong. We were not going to repeat the mistakes of the 1940’s.”

Smukler pointed out that during his visits to the USSR, Soviet Jews urged him to be as outspoken as possible. “They told us, for example, that there was a direct correlation between the number of letters written to each Soviet Jewish activist and the way the KGB treated that activist. The more letters from abroad, the more the Soviet authorities were reluctant to persecute him, knowing there were people abroad who were concerned.”

Even before he formally took on the mantle of Soviet Jewry leadership in Philadelphia, Smukler was making his presence felt on the issue. When he was president of the Philadelphia-area college campus Hillels in the late 1960’s, there was once a controversy over a group of Penn students who had chained themselves to the Soviet Embassy in Washington protest the mistreatment of Soviet Jewry.

“Some Jewish establishment types wanted me to punish these students – even expel them from Hillel,” Smukler recalled. “I would not allow that. In fact, I patted them on the back. They were courageous and idealistic, and deserved the Jewish community’s praise.”

He remembered another incident, from the early 1970’s, when a Soviet hockey team visited Philadelphia for a game. “We started to organize a protest. Local Jewish leaders tried to pressure us to refrain from protesting. We did it anyway. We prepared signs in Russian and English, with polite but firm slogans about Soviet Jewry. Then we bought tickets in seats in various sections of the old Spectrum arena, and held up the posters in such a way that no matter where the television cameras focused, the signs were visible. And there were Russian TV crews there, beaming it all back to the USSR.”

The Soviet players, seeing the signs, refused to skate onto the ice to start the game. Arena officials pleaded with Smukler to take down the signs. He agreed to do so – but instructed the sign-bearers to take them down very slowly, one at a time, so that the televised images going back to the Soviet Union would continue to show the signs for a while.

One of Smukler’s proudest moments came in 1977, when an official Soviet newspaper, Izvestia, cited him by name as someone suspected of conspiring with then-Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky.

“If the Soviet authorities hated me so much,” he said with a smile, “I knew I must be doing something right.”

About the Author: Benyamin Korn, former executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent and the Miami Jewish Tribune, is chairman of the Philadelphia Religious Zionists.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “How The Holocaust Influenced One Man’s Struggle For Soviet Jewry”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Israel. Aug. 31, 2015.
Sen Cotton in Israel: ‘It Isn’t Over ‘Til the Votes are Counted’
Latest Indepth Stories

So it is critical that readers in the districts indicated come out to vote.

We urge readers to seek out upcoming rallies scheduled for times and places that work for them.

To be sure, the worst of what was directed at Mr. Nadler by some random hotheads with no real power or influence (calling him a “kapo,” for example) was over the top.

We can readily understand that it would be an embarrassment to the president were Congress to reject the deal he struck, even if that rejection would be vetoed and go nowhere.

As the First Zionist Congress was indisputably one of the seminal events in modern Jewish history, it is not surprising that it became the subject of some of the most beloved, beautiful, and rare Rosh Hashanah cards ever created.

Many in the media impart bias in place of truth; convey personal prejudice over objective facts.

Nahal Haredi is the ultimate solution, according to Branski, serving haredim from a wide variety of backgrounds – chassidish and yeshivish, Sephardi and Askenazi.

A recent study found that 54% of Jewish college students experienced/witnessed anti-Semitism in 2014

The purpose of an attack on Joseph’s Tomb is to murder Jews at prayer and destroy a Jewish holy site

A nuclear Khomenist Tehran will be a threat to Western democracies and to Jerusalem in particular

The MONSTERS of Nebi Saleh know well the damning, visceral impact of powerful, deceitful imagery.

Jewish Voice for Peace openly supports BDS movement against ALL of Israel & ending the Jewish State.

In recent years, there has been a big push to grow and develop American Football here in Israel.

Unlike Judaism & Christianity which honors “truth,” Islam pursues “Taqiyya,” strategic lying

More Articles from Benyamin "Buddy" Korn
Labour Party Head of Israel

The conundrum for US Labor Zionists: Lobbying for Iran deal while Israel’s Left lobby’s against it.

Dennis Ross

Does Miller’s track record on Mid-East inspire confidence regarding his Iran recommendations? NO!

Many reviews already have appeared of “The Undefeated,” the soon-to-be-released documentary about Sarah Palin’s tenure in Alaska. Yet none of them – even in The Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post or Politico.com – mentions that nearly all of the film’s many pro-Palin media talking heads are Jews.

The recent reunion, in Washington, D.C., of activists from the Soviet Jewry protest movement was an opportunity to see old friends and reminisce about a bygone era. But for Philadelphia attorney Joe Smukler, it was also a time to reflect on the lessons to be learned from their unique, history-changing experiences.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/how-the-holocaust-influenced-one-mans-struggle-for-soviet-jewry/2007/01/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: