JUNE 2003

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The Entire World Will Hear Our Voice
Novoye Russkoye Slovo [New Russian Word]
Mikhail Nemirovsky

May 21, 2003

The Russian-speaking Jewish community of New York gathered in Brighton Beach’s Seaside Park on May 18 to express their solidarity with Israel and to celebrate Israel’s 55th birthday. Several thousand people attended the event.

The community first gathered to demonstrate its solidarity with Israel on May 18 last year. More than 15,000 Russian-speaking Jews attended that event, which took place under unrelenting rain.

The organizers of both events were the newspaper Novoye Russkoye Slovo, the radio station Narodnaya Volna and the Russian-American community leader Oleg Gutnik. Sponsors included PRAVO, Russian-American Jews for Israel, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Congress of Bukharian Jews of America, the Council of Jewish Émigré Community Organizations and the largest American Jewish organizations. All of these groups assembled for a general celebration.

Celebration!? The gathering was intended to be a celebration. May 18, a sunny spring day, would have been a celebration if it were not for two suicide bombings in Jerusalem that morning.

Each speaker repeated: “Stop the terror now!” Members of the audience held signs reading: “Criminals and their sponsors must be held accountable.”

Throughout the event, audience members cried out in unison: “We are united with Israel!” “The people of Israel are alive!” “Israel and America are friends! Today and forever!”

The audience sang the national anthems of the United States and Israel.

Veterans, high-school students, computer programmers and housewives, businessmen, grandparents and grandchildren all gathered at the event with the desire to express their solidarity with Israel, a country where all of them have relatives.

Oleg Gutnik, the moderator of the event, gave the microphone first to mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg.

“Dobroye utro, druzya [Good morning, friends],” said Bloomberg, greeting the participants in Russian. “For 55 years, Israel has been forced to militarily defend itself. And today it is the only country in the world, where people die every day in terrorist attacks. New York and the United States, led by President Bush, offer our total support to Israel. We always will! New York will never forget the victims of terrorist attacks in Israel or our victims in the attack on the World Trade Center. We are obligated to defend the lives of our people forever and in any part of the world.”

In the Jewish tradition, Rabbi Moshe Solovei read a prayer that is always read by the head rabbi in Israel on Independence Day.

Then Oleg Gutnik spoke: “Every one of those present here can ask themselves: ‘why did I come here today?’ What does Israel’s 55th birthday mean to us, to our children and to our grandchildren and to Jews throughout the world? We didn’t have Israel before 1948. We didn’t have a country. And today, we have a country, which defends us and which we are obligated to support and defend. And that is why I am here. I am with you, Israel!”

Valerii and Lilia Weinberg, the publishers of the newspaper Novoye Russkoye Slovo addressed the gathering.

“Friends, we hold sacred America, the country that we live in,” said Weinberg. “But we also love Israel. It is suffering terrible misfortunes. Parents in Israel wish that their children could go to school and lead normal lives, rather than being threatened with violence at every turn. Intifada has lasted 31 months -- 3100 victims: 700 Israelis and 2400 Palestinians. Negotiations have led nowhere. The Palestinian leaders move their pieces around the chess board, while they continue to kill.”

“Today is May 18,” said Weinberg. “May the Jewish people and Israel live forever.”

Lilia Weinberg announced that Novoye Russkoye Slovo collected $150,000 last year and contributed to a fund for the construction of a hospital in Israel.

Alon Pinkas of the General Consulate of Israel in New York spoke next. He expressed gratitude to the veterans of World War II in the crowd. “Thanks to the victory over fascism in 1945, it became possible to establish a Jewish state,” said Pinkas.

Pinkas said the Israeli government attached importance to the Russian-speaking Jews’ act of solidarity. Israel feels eternal gratitude toward Jews throughout the world. “However, we hope that some day we will all gather in Jerusalem,” Pinkas said.

There were presentations by members of the State Assembly of New York and the City Council of New York. Every speaker emphasized the urgency of the struggle against terrorism and noted that Israel and the United States are in the forefront of that struggle.

All the speakers commented on the growing and multi-faceted role of the Russian-speaking community in New York: from politics to business and culture. Today, the Russian-speaking community is an integral part of the city’s life, including the city’s struggle against terrorism and support of Israel.

Professor Igor Branovan, president of the Russian-American Jews for Israel, called for a moment of silence for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Israel. Then he read a letter from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the gathering, in which Sharon expressed appreciation for the support of Russian-speaking Jewish community in the United States.

One of the most emotional moments at the event was the presentation by Valerii Savinkin, the father of a victim of the attack on the World Trade Center, Vladimir Savinkin.

Two representatives of the Council of Jewish Émigré Community Organizations, Vice President Sam Kislin and acting Director Alik Bruk-Krasnii spoke about the beginning of preparations for a group of Russian-speaking Jews from New York to travel to Israel on a solidarity mission in November of this year.

Ronni Vinnikov, a representative of Sokhnut, read letters from Natan Sharansky, the minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs and Leonid Bard, the acting director of the American branch of the World Congress of Russian-speaking Jewry.

As the event came to an end, those assembled unanimously adopted a resolution to support the Israeli government.

Translated from Russian by Elizabeth LeBras.


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