Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sit in at the Syrian Mission to the UN

"19 Teen Age Zionists Raid Arab Frontier on 3rd Avenue"

That's the headline on the lead article with regard to our sit-in in the Syrian Mission to the UN on October 14, 1966, which was a Friday. I don't remember who organized the peulah, but it was my first sit-in - we were told that no one under 18 would be allowed to participate. We all met in the lobby of 757 Third Avenue and took the elevator up to the 25th floor. The sit-in was a prayer vigil in memory of those Israelis killed by the shelling and sabotage from the Golan Heights supported by Syria.

We walked into the outer office of the Mission , past the startled secretary and into the office of ambassador George Tomeh - who was at the UN debating the situation - where we locked the door, sat down, prayed and sang until the police came. After making our point, we left peacefully ( to quote Deputy Chief Inspector Stephen Killorin - "they created no damage, no vandalism, no nothing") - and were taken to the 17th precinct for booking on charges of trespassing. US ambassador Arthur Goldberg signed the complaint against us.

While in the precinct we were given our own arrest forms to fill out - when the captain came in and saw this he went balistic. After processing at the precinct we were taken to the Tombs where we waited arraignment on the charges - and the time is ticking down to shabbat. We were all concerned that we would get out and get home in time (which we did - but just barely).

So, we were given a date to come back to court, which I think was the first day of the College Spring semester - and it came with a horrific snow storm. We had to come back a number of times until we all pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and given suspended sentences - but first we were finger printed and mug shots were taken. I seem to remember that the court disposition actually said " sentencing suspended."

Now there was a back story to our court appearance. I seem to remember that we were not going to get printed or have our pictures taken, but the first day we were in court the kids who sat-in against the Vietnam War at Whitehall Street were also in court - their lawyer heard about our "deal" and made a stink about it (of course I could be wrong about this detail, and that is was all a coincidence - Yitzhak - what is the truth here?).

So who were we? - Reuven Genn, Reuven Miller, Nissan Teman, Menachem Goldberg, Chuck Waxman, Eli Solomon Z"L, Rena Epstein, Risa Rich, Mella Pollachek, Sara Rosenberg - who else?, and of course Nachman Eckstein who never made it up in the elevator!

Tel Hai,

Risa here - I am quoting an email sent by our lawyer, Yitzhak Heimowitz, to the American Betar History list in October 2006 (our 40th anniversay): As you can see, some of the guilty have strange names. Don't let that fool you!

"The two minor high school students were Bernice Bach and Sarah Rosenberg. We succeeded in having all charges against them dropped.

According to the official court records the other 17 were:

Emily Isaacs, Rosanne Rich, Charles L. Waxman, Jacob Gross, Michael
Goldberg, Hyman Fischgrund, Bernard Kraus, Chaim Frydman, Aaron Kinsberg, Rena Epstein, Efraim Dimant, Eli Solomon, Robert Genn, Richard Miller, Norman Teman, David S. Disenhouse and Gerald Kandel

"The charge was reduced to disorderly conduct and all pled guilty and received suspended sentences.There were some interesting developments along the way. The State Department used its influence for more severe sentences and the case was regarded as a hot potato by
the Criminal Court judges, who passed it around from one to the other.
Finally Milton Shalleck the Presiding Justice imposed the suspended


YMedad said...

I was in Israel and I think Levy Eshkol made a statement. I'll have to check my files. Maybe even Golda was derisive. And as for Nachman, he made it up and then right down again, I was given to understand. Emily Udler should be added.

Shachna Waxman said...

According to one of the articles I have, Eshkol said that "the invasion of the Syrian UN Mission was 'unimportant, stupid and childish'".

Shachna Waxman said...

Thank you Rhisa. As for the passing the case around, I seem to remember at one point we were in front of a non-Jewish judge who didn't want to impose sentence and said "I'm gonna hand you back to one of your own."

Shachna Waxman said...

I need to correct the comment I made about Nachman Eckstein-
He was not there that day. He was in the reserves and was unable to participate.