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TitleThe Jews of Silence: A Personal Report on Soviet Jewry
Author
LanguageEnglish
File Size730.9 KB
Total Pages96
Table of Contents
                            Cover
Other Books by This Author
Title Page
Copyright
Introduction to the 2011 Edition
To the Reader
1   Introduction
2   Fear
3   A Gift
4   Babi Yar
5   Celebration in Moscow
6   A Night of Dancing
7   Solitude
8   The Dream of Israel
9   What They Expect from Us
10   The Return
11   Epilogue
	Afterword by Martin Gilbert
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 2

Books by Elie Wiesel

Page 48

synagogues and (prayer rooms) Kiev once had, only one remains open.
He broke off almost in the middle of a sentence and returned to his

companions, sending one of them to continue the account. In twenty minutes the
third took his turn. Each of them knew what the one before had said; there was
no repetition. One spoke about the chief and his cruelty toward the old
rabbi; another told about Jews who were still in prison on charges of Zionist-
nationalist activity or on suspicion of having committed “economic crimes”; the
third stressed the impending doom of Russian Jewry—only a miracle could help.
All three asked the same questions: Why are the Jews outside so silent? Why

aren’t they doing something? Don’t they know what is happening here? Or don’t
they want to know? Maybe it’s easier not to know, to ignore our suffering and
carry on with their daily affairs, to act as if we didn’t exist.
I could not answer their questions. Why the Jewish world so indifferent to

the Jews in Russia? I don’t know. I know only that this apathy, from an
historical point of view, borders on the criminal. Even if we assume that our
protests are useless to change Kremlin policy, they do change the spiritual
climate for the Jewish population. They bring Soviet Jews the comforting
knowledge of a single fact—that the Jewish people have not forgotten them, that
they are not alone.

Justly or unjustly, they think that we have forgotten; they think that we have
ignored or abandoned them, that somehow we are all too busy and preoccupied
to be interested in their fate. Jewish solidarity extends to everyone in the world
but them. The Jewish state has even begun to help the nations of Asia and
Africa, but toward them it displays an attitude of vague and hesitant indifference.
This, more than anything else, is what pains them. They can overcome the

rest. After all, they are a people who have never been strangers to persecution
and discrimination. They will endure, despite the fear which permeates their
collective existence. They will submit to neither the pressures nor the seductions
of their environment. I repeat that I am not as pessimistic as they are; the
youngsters I saw dancing on Simchat Torah convinced me that the end is not yet
in sight, the fountain has not yet run dry. But how are they to overcome the pain
that springs up from within, their disappointment in us and the desperate
conclusions they are inevitably forced to draw about us?
We must realize that the Russian government wants them to feel cut off from

world Jewry. The official press censors every news item concerning Jewish
action taken on their behalf. It failed to report the march in Washington or the
demonstration at Madison Square Garden. The government’s purpose is clear: to
convince the Russian Jews to abandon their illusory expectations of help from

Page 95

book are as meaningful as they were twenty years ago: “I returned from the
Soviet Union disheartened and depressed. But what torments me most is not the
Jews of silence I met in Russia, but the silence of the Jews I live among today.”
Thanks to Elie Wiesel’s own writing and the work of hundreds of

campaigners for Soviet Jewry throughout the free world, that Western silence is
no longer what it was, a pitiful gap in Jewish unity. But the silence is still there,
pierced from time to time by a murmur and on occasion by a shout, but not yet
shattered, as it could be, by the sustained indignation of which the Jewish world
is capable.
Surely it is possible to end once and for all the tragedy and the indignity of

two million Jewish men, women, and children trapped behind a border which,
however much they wish to cross it, cannot be crossed at will. It is quite wrong
that they should be trapped in this way: two million human wrongs in an age that
pays such loud lip service to promoting human rights. Surely our voice can and
must be even louder, to open those gates again.
Nothing could be more timely than the reissuing of Elie Wiesel’s book, to

remind us of the days when fear and hope seemed to have no outlet but despair,
but when Israel, then as now, was a beacon in the darkness. Let all of us work
today, as Elie Wiesel worked then, and still works, to provide our fellow Jews in
the Soviet Union with a voice, and a mechanism, capable of leading out all who
wish to go there—to the Jewish state which once, in 1940 (when needed most),
did not exist, but which today, as a sovereign state, waits with an open border
and an eager heart.

Merton College, Oxford
July 4, 1986

*Emigration to Israel.—ed.

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