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From the Archives: When Abba Eban came to Denver

Seventy years ago this week brought a most illustrious name to Denver — Israeli Ambassador to the US Abba Eban.

The diplomat famed for his oratorical skill spoke at BMH on Feb. 19. A major focal point of the visit: “Major efforts to aid the State of Israel toward economic independence,” in part to help build “Israel as a haven for refugees from Soviet terror.”

The years 1952-1953 saw concerted anti-Semitic campaigns in the Soviet Union, which outraged and frightened American Jewry. Across the country, emergency campaigns were launched by federations to assist Soviet Jews, as evidenced by a news story on page 3 of the same Feb. 12, 1953 edition that announced the Eban visit. These were the years of the Doctors Plot, the brutal murder of 13 Yiddish poets and Stalin’s accusation that every “Jewish nationalist” was an American spy. At the time of the Feb. 12 edition, there were rumors that deportations of Jews were to begin and that camps had been built to house them. Stalin’s death, which came on March 5, 1953, put an end to these alleged plans as well as to the Doctors Plot, which had claimed that a group of doctors (predominantly Jewish) planned to murder high-ranking Soviet officials.

Change the names — both of the ambassador and the name of the regime — and here we are, 70 years later, once again bolstering efforts to provide safe haven for refugees from Russian terror.

The more things change, the more they stay the same . . .

But there’s a positive to that idiom. The article announcing Eban’s visit highlights the efforts of Denver Jews, specifically Adolph Kiesler and Jesse Shwayder, to purchase Israel Bonds to make the goal of economic independence possible. Later this month, in 2023, JEWISHcolorado will host its signature event, where guest Liev Schreiber will share his efforts to help the Jews of Ukraine, and where Jco will be fundraising for its projects, among them those that help indigent Ukrainian refugees as well as bolster the State of Israel — both efforts that Kiesler (then honorary president of the Allied Jewish Council) and Shwayder — and other donors whose names hadn’t come in as of press time for that Feb. 12, 1953 edition — no doubt would have approved mightily.

This online feature explores the IJN’s new digital archive, discovering the news of the week, years ago.




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