Philadelphians Celebrate Rebbe’s 70th Birthday
The Cold War was raging in 1972, and the plight of Soviet Jews was a hot topic in Jewish communities across the United States.
And the March 31 issue of the Jewish Exponent led with a story out of Washington, D.C., about a protest mailing project that came to an unexpected end.
The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith sought to attract attention to the hardships Soviet Jews faced, so it conceived of a matzah-mailing project to the Soviet Embassy.
“The ADL had planned that if Anatoly Dobrynin, Soviet ambassador to the United States, refused to pass on the packages to Jews in Russia, they then would be distributed to charitable institutions in the Washington area,” the article said.
As expected, the embassy refused to accept the 6,000 to 7,000 boxes of matzah received, but here’s where the twist arrived.
The United States Post Office decided the matzah was a health hazard and had it destroyed in an incinerator. A postal spokesman said some of the boxes had been sitting around for a couple weeks, “and there was a danger of rodents and other little critters getting to them.”
Local senators and representatives called for an investigation into the matter, but Samuel L. Gaber, the regional ADL director who coordinated the campaign, said he didn’t want to fight the post office “and thus take the focus away from the real issue — the inhumanity of the Soviet authorities.”
Also on the front page was news about Philadelphians joining in the 70th birthday celebration of Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.
The celebration occurred at the Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y., but a delegation of 100 attended from Philadelphia, including Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, regional director of Lubavitch. Ironically, Shemtov was mentioned in last week’s Exponent; he was part of a contingent at the Oval Office commemorating the 116th anniversary of Schneerson’s birthday. Schneerson passed away in 1994.