First Published: Morning Freiheit, September 15, 1985.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The following letter from Sol Shek of Toronto, Ontario, is reprinted from the July-August 1985 issue of the progressive Canadian Jewish Outlook, published in Vancouver, B.C. The letter speaks for itself; it needs no additional comment from the Freiheit.
I have read with much chagrin a letter printed in the April issue of the Canadian Jewish Outlook. The letter was signed by one, Max Kagan, apparently a Jew, from as far as Los Angeles, California. This compactor of sunshine, obviously one of the fanatical hardliners, is toeing the official Soviet line which leads precariously to the precipice of Jewish dissolution.
Mr. Kagan criticizes the Morning Freiheit of New York generally, and Chaim Suller, the co-editor, in particular. More specifically, Kagan objects to an article written by Suller on the tragic situation of the Jewish community in the Soviet Union, and the condition of the remnant Jewish community of the so-called “Jewish national Territory of Birobidjan”.
In this regard Mr. Kagan proceeds to tell us a children’s fairy-tale about the happy circumstances of the Jews in the Soviet Union, and Birobidjan. He also describes the immense achievements of the “anti-Zionist committee”, headed by the notorious General David Dragunsky. And then a story about the role played by the USSR and Czechoslovakia, during the miraculous birth of the State of Israel, and so on and so forth.
My question is: How could the editors of the Outlook print so flimsy a letter on such an important problem without the slightest comment, or even a statement of disassociation?
And as far as Mr. Kagan goes, does he really think that only he knows about the “utopian” milieu of our people in the Soviet Union? Does he really expect us to swallow his fantastic projections’?
To begin with, let me affirm that even kindergarten children are fully aware of the role the USSR played during the period of the birth of the state of Israel (1947); most especially in the auditorium of the United Nations (the genuinely Socialist Gromyko speech still warms our hearts). We also know that Israeli messengers travelled to Czechoslovakia and other European countries which helped considerably with armaments, instructors and advisors.
Nor is it a secret that this help was decisive in the war against Egypt, Syria, the Saudis, etc.
It is a fact that during that historic period not only the Morning Freiheit, but the right-wing Jewish press praised the USSR all the way up to the sky. There was no lack, believe me, of kudos and heartfelt appreciation.
However today, at this tragic point of social and political development, things turned upside down. As the Yiddish saying goes: “The years pass and the wheels turn... ” Obviously. Today the Soviet Union equates Zionism and Israel with Nazism. Today the Soviet Union publishes anti-Jewish literature that smacks of the most astonishing racism. These books (including the revived and infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion) are systematically translated into many languages, including Arabic – most especially Arabic. And all this with the unequivocal approval of not some wild band of neo-Hitlerites, but the United Socialist Soviet Republic.
As to the “Socialist Paradise” in the autonomous Jewish territories of Birobidzan, may I first point out that after sixty years the entire Jewish population of that region consists of less than 12,000 Jews. As to Kagan’s cultural projections: schools, libraries, newspapers, theatres, frolicking and happy Jews (who hate Israel) and so on and so forth, let us, mercifully, say that all that must be attributed to Mr. Kagan’s fertile imagination...
If Mr. Kagan reads Yiddish I recommend that he read Chaim Maltinsky’s The Birobidjan Trials, of the late thirties, as well as the thoroughly researched and documented book on the Birobidjan Autonomy by Dr. Chaim Sloves. If he read these highly documented books he would indeed understand why we progressive Jews read the Morning Freiheit.
Now, Birobidjan is for me a personal tragedy. The reason is that exactly there, in the Jewish Autonomous Socialist Territory several of my near and dear relatives were murdered, they were all brilliant and creative people, and yes, honest and devoted communists who came to Birobidjan at great personal sacrifice to till the soil with their bare hands. It was there that they were arrested and accused of insanely ridiculous crimes; they were supposed to have been Japanese spies, enemies so called, and yes, renegades and counter revolutionaries. They were ordered to confess, but how do you confess uncommitted crimes? So they tortured them day in and day out. No one knows where they are buried. Much less their widows and children.
Having got this off my chest, I have one last, rather pertinent question. Do these hardliners, like Kagan (who have of their own free will distanced themselves from, and yes, turned upon their people) think that we the leaders of the Morning Freiheit, ought to thank and praise the anti-Semitic policies of the Soviet Union and turn ourselves willy-nilly into Jewish Uncle Toms? Is it too much to demand Socialist justice from a Socialist Government?