Volume 22 Number 98
                       Produced: Sun Jan 28 22:12:02 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Dmitrii Fattakhov
         [Howard Reich]
Fattakhov case: Jacob Birnbaum, SSSJ founder, responds
         [Freda B Birnbaum]
Fattakhov case; Administrative Detentions in Israel
         [Howard Reich]


From: Howard Reich <hreich@...>
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 96 13:05 EST
Subject: Dmitrii Fattakhov

Mordechai Perlman attributes to the Aguda the opinion that we should not
petition the Uzbek government on behalf of Dmitrii Fattakhov.

I have a copy of a letter that Rabbi Moshe Sherer, Chairman of Agudath
Israel World Organization, sent by fax on Friday, January 26, 1996 to
the President of Uzbekistan.  In this well written two-page letter,
Rabbi Sherer speaks of the considerable evidence of Dmitrii's innocence,
the paucity or lack of credible evidence of guilt, the severe abuse that
Dmitrii received while in prison, the serious deterioration of his
physical and mental health, the provisions of the Uzbek constitution
which have been violated, and respectfully but forcefully asks the
President to intervene on Dmitrii's behalf.


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 07:20:13 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Fattakhov case: Jacob Birnbaum, SSSJ founder, responds

In response to material recently posted on Mail-Jewish (Announcements
and Requests Volume 2 #68, Mail-Jewish Volume 22 #81 and #88), my
husband Jacob Birnbaum has asked me to post the following statement on
the campaign for Dmitrii Fattakhov of Tashkent.  Jacob Birnbaum is the
founder and National Director of the Center for Russian Jewry with
Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ).  1996 marks the 50th year of
his service to the Jewish people.

           Freda Birnbaum, <fbb6@...>

Our campaign to save the life of the 23 year old Dmitrii Fattakhov of
Tashkent and ultimately to rescue him has shown us once more how
difficult the mitzvo of Pidyon Shvuyim (redemption of captives) is, yet
an observant Jew, Mordechai Perlman of Toronto, has caused confusion
among some Jews trying to help.  By contrast, another observant Jew,
Michael Gerver of Boston, has utilized the limited information to which
both men had access in a very positive way.

Perlman discovered a distant relative in the American Embassy in
Tashkent with whom he had an exchange of faxes many weeks ago.  In his
response, the official prefaced his brief remarks with the statement, in
Perlman's words, "The State Department has expressed interest in this
case for human rights reasons and the Uzbek government is well aware of
this interest."  The Embassy official expressed his personal opinion
that the prosecution of Dmitrii Fattakhov was not a case of
anti-Semitism.  Perlman also reports him as having indicated that though
Dmitrii Fattakhov's mother is Jewish, "he is a Moslem on his father's
side as he is identified on his papers as a Moslem Tatar." Perlman also
refers to the diplomat's suggestion that the brutality of the young
man's treatment had been "significantly exaggerated"!

Finally, he quotes the official that "he did not want his response to be
considered an official U.S. response."  Unfortunately, Perlman was not
very careful in this respect and without trying to establish additional
sources of information from Tashkent, he proclaimed that there was "NO
REASON TO PROCEED" with the campaign!  Moreover, without knowing
anything about them, he used unfounded innuendo, and cast doubt on the
credentials and credibility of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews
which has an unparalleled record of struggle for pidyon shvuyim.

Perlman has not taken the trouble to find out that the State Department
is becoming more and more aware of evidence of the extreme tortures
inflicted upon the young Jew, including his being suspended on some
metal bars from which he was seen hanging unconscious.  As this kind of
thing has in the past been connected with electric torture and another
Jew, the 75 year old Yosef Koihenov had been threatened with electric
torture, we have the right to conjecture the young man was subjected to
this particularly odious torture.  I would refer to the bitter protest
of a U.S. human rights delegate, Sam Wise, to an OSCE [Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe] Conference on October 5, 1995
regarding the maltreatment of Dmitrii.

Despite the unquestioned Jewishness of the boy's mother, Frida
Fattakhov, which he admits, Perlman takes it upon himself to question
the reality of his Jewishness.  He has no right to sit in judgment on
Fattakhov's Jewishness, particularly as his mother made sure to have him
circumcised according to the Jewish ritual and he became barmitzva
according to the Bukharan Jewish ritual known as "TEFILLIN BANON".  (The
Bukharan ritual emphasizes the ceremony of the boy's first laying of
tefillin.) He was also known to have attended Hebrew classes at the
Israel Center in Tashkent before his arrest.

Perlman's remark that he is identified in his papers as a Moslem Tatar
is nonsense.  People in the former USSR were never identified by their
religion but by their ethnic group.  Many Jews, though not the majority,
are covered by the stamp of another nationality in their papers. His
father may have been a Buddhist Tatar or a Jewish Tatar for that matter.
In any case, this is not very relevant as Dmitrii's parents were
divorced when he was a baby, he did not know his father, and the boy was
known to have been brought up as a Jew by his mother within the Bukharan
Jewish community.  Even without all this, it is hard to understand the
psychology of Perlman's desperate effort to exclude this deeply
suffering young man from his Jewishness and to obstruct our efforts to
save him!

Who are the people working with such passion, day and night, for

Internet readers have become aware of the Union of Councils for Soviet
Jews, headed by Pamela Cohen and Micah Naftalin.  Naftalin's discussions
are indicative of his special leadership qualities.  As my own
activities for Soviet Jewry go back 32 years I had the pleasure of
knowing and working with the UCSJ's earliest founders.  The UCSJ's
leaders and members have operated with a unique commitment,
self-sacrifice and accurate reporting which deserve great honor and
gratitude from the Jewish community.  Pam and Micah have led the Union
for close to a decade and I have never known them to make a point of
supporting Reform against Orthodox, as suggested by Perlman.

Special recognition of the labors of Fattakhov's American lawyer, Helene
Kenvin, is in order.  Years ago, she had the foresight to create the
Caucasus Network with representatives in all the major areas of
non-Ashkenazi Jewish settlement in the non-European areas of the former
USSR.  Her efforts for Fattakhov and before that for another Bukharan
Jew, Koihenov, have been herculean.

Let me also mention the superb intermediary work between the groups of
Inna Arolovich of the American Association of Russian Jews.

Mr. Perlman should know that all of us are in frequent, even daily,
contact with representatives of the U.S. and Israeli governments and
with Bukharan Jewish contacts.  In addition, I have a line to the
Germans, who have substantial investments in Uzbekistan.  Our groups try
to coordinate their efforts as much as possible in terms of information
exchange and development of strategy and tactics.

Despite initial reluctance to complicate relations with the Uzbeks, a
group of Western representatives in Tashkent, spurred on by
international concern, are now cooperating to pressure the Uzbeks to
send the young man to Israel for treatment. As an expression of this
concern, the State Department called in the Uzbek Ambassador in
Washington to its human rights offices last Thursday, January 18, 1996
for an unusually extended and tough meeting.  Members of the Helsinki
Commission met with the Ambassador on January 24.

Despite these efforts, the young man is clearly dying in a sealed
medical facility in Tashkent to which even his mother and lawyer are not
admitted and we must urge an ACCELERATED public campaign to save him.

Jacob Birnbaum, National Director
Center for Russian Jewry with Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry
Telephone: 212-928-7451
Fax:       212-795-8867     

[p.s. from Freda Birnbaum:
As I post my husband's statement early on January 25, 1996, he informs me 
that during the night, he heard the news that Dmitrii, lying in a filthy, 
overcrowded ward, had contracted pneumonia and was callig for his mother 
to save him.  We wonder whether he will survive till his 24th birthday on 
February 2.]


From: Howard Reich <hreich@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Jan 96 01:09 EST
Subject: Fattakhov case; Administrative Detentions in Israel

I find current discussions about incarcerated Jews, in which persons
from corners in which chumras are routinely adopted in other areas of
observance, seem to exhibit a blase attitude about the Torah-mandated
mitzva of pidyon shvuyim, most disquieting.

For example, after first citing a discussion that he had with his cousin
who occupies a low position in the U.S. State Department about Dmitrii
Fattakhov's condition in October (that was neither probative of his
condition six months earlier when he was tortured nor his condition
today where everyone agrees that he requires psychiatric care) and
raising unjustified doubts about Dmitrii's Jewish lineage, as reasons
for not participating in the UCSJ's letter writing campaign on behalf of
Dmitrii, Mordechai Perlman next tells us that he was advised not to do
so by the Aguda.  I am intentionally trying to avoid the political
aspects of this discussion, and will only mention in passing that I
believe that the position that Mordechai attributes to the Aguda has
been generally discredited by recent events in the former Soviet Union.

More importantly, where there is a sofek (question) about whether a
Torah-mandated mitzva is invoked, then we must resolve that doubt in
favor of performing the mitzva.  Mordechai's suggestion that helping
Dmitrii would hurt the larger Jewish community is mere speculation and
is not supported by either fact or logic.  It is in fact
counterintuitive.  World Jewry's outcry against anti-semitic acts is
more likely to prevent anti-semitic acts in the future; conversely,
world apathy about anti-semitic acts is more likely to encourage such

Turning to the situation in Israel that is in so many ways far more
troubling, primarily because a number of Jews have recently been
deprived of their liberty without any explanation and it is unknown how
many more Jews will encounter this new policy of the current Israeli
regime.  Shmuel Himelstein suggests that we not oppose such detentions
because they have been applied to Arabs in the past.  Putting aside and
without minimizing the distinctions which others have mentioned (e.g.,
terrorists/non-violent, citizens/non-citizens), I am at a loss to
understand the relevance of his observation.  Does Shmuel believe that
what he regards as two wrongs justifies a right, halachically?  Should
we expand the mitzva of pidyon shvuyim to include non-Jews?

Warren Burstein can't find the Pikuach Nefesh issue involving a loss of
liberty, and questions whether Mr. Cytryn is being held under dangerous
conditions, as if such were necessary before trying to help.  Without
accepting the implications of Warren's post, I will only mention that
according to reports carried by the Shomron News Service and Arutz Sheva
today, one of Shmuel Cytryn's legs is inexplicably broken, he wears a
cast up to his knee and uses crutches to get around.

Lo aleinu.  And that's the point.


End of Volume 22 Issue 98