Martin Luther King Quote
Some years ago, John Donne wrote in graphic terms, “No man is an island entire of himself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a part be washed away by sea, Europe is less, as well as is the promontory world, as well as is the manner of thy friends of thine own self world. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind. Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.
These challenging words affirming the interdependence and interrelatedness of mankind are particularly when we think of the plight of three million Jews in the Soviet Union. No person of good will can stand by as a silent auditor while there is a possibility of the complete spiritual and cultural destruction of a once flourishing Jewish community. The denial of human rights anywhere is a threat to the affirmation of human rights everywhere. Jewish communal rights are deprived by the Soviet government of elementary needs to sustain even a modest level of existence and growth. In a form of society in which publishing, the operation of institutions, and the acquisition of facilities are under government control, individual initiative cannot substitute for state omissions and the result is a withered and restricted Jewish community.
While Jews in Russia may not be physically murdered as they were in Nazi Germany, they are facing every day a kind of spiritual and cultural genocide. Individual Jews may in the main be physically and economically secure in Russia, but the absence of opportunity to associate as Jews in the enjoyment of Jewish culture and religious experience becomes a severe limitation upon the individual. These deprivations are part of a person’s emotional and intellectual life. They determine whether he is fulfilled as a human being. Negros can well understand and sympathize with this problem. When you are written out of history as a people, when you are given no choice but to accept the majority culture, you are denied an aspect of your own identity. Ultimately you suffer a corrosion of your self-understanding and your self-respect.
The official answers by the Soviet government assert that it is providing as much as the Jewish community actually desires. But there is abundant evidence that this is untrue. Unofficial answers that imply state security is involved, because Jews have international ties, are even more unsatisfactory. In the thirties when the Soviet Union was vastly less secure than it is today, it officially encouraged a flourishing of Jewish culture. The insensitivity of the Soviet Union on this question is properly a subject for criticism and protest. Without making it part of cold war politics, world opinion is justified in reminding them that they are oppressing a cultural heritage that is world property. Jewish history and culture are a part of everyone’s heritage, whether he be Jewish, Christian or Moslem. The Soviet Union must recognize the legitimate criticism that insists it accord fair treatment to its Jewish community. If that government expects respect for itself in the international community of nations, the sincere and genuine concern felt by people around the world for this problem should impel that Soviet government not only to affect a solution but to do so with all deliberate speed.
In the meantime, let us continue to make our voices heard and our righteous protests felt. We cannot sit complacently by the wayside while our Jewish brothers in the Soviet Union face the possible extinction of their cultural and spiritual life. Those that sit at rest, while others take pains, are tender turtles and buy their quiet with disgrace.
citation: December 11, 1966