Jewish Criticism of 60 Minutes

By Andrew Gregorovich

The 60 Minutes program The Ugly Face of Freedom not only aroused the Ukrainian community it was also an insult to many members of the Jewish community. Here are excerpts from some criticisms offered by Jews:

Rabbi Yaakov D. Bleich, Kiev, October 31, 1994

...I feel that the broadcast did not convey the true state of affairs in Ukraine. I also would like to state unequivocally that my words were quoted out of the context that they were said.

Credit should be given where credit is due. The present government of Ukraine, continuing the policies of the previous government, has an excellent record in human rights, respecting the rights of national minorities in deeds and actions and not only on paper. It has been noted that Ukraine has the best record on human rights of all former Soviet republics.

Former President Leonid Kravchuk has publicly apologized for the crimes of those Ukrainians who collaborated with the nazis in the persecution and killing of Ukrainian Jews.... However they were a small minority of the populace. The Ukrainian people should not be blamed collectively for the sins of few.

In conclusion, as an American citizen living in Ukraine for five years, having witnessed Ukraine’s transition from the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic to a modern democracy, I must state that "The Beautiful Face of Freedom" in Ukraine is a lot more predominant than the ugly one. I feel that the CBS broadcast was unbalanced since it focused on a very small minority, ignoring the majority and the positive achievements of Ukraine in its three years of independence.

The revitalization of the Jewish community in Ukraine which has become the strongest and most flourishing Jewish community in the FSU is but one example of the bright side of freedom and democracy in modern Ukraine.

Rabbi David H. Lincoln, Park Avenue Synagogue, New York, October 25, 1994 Letter addressed to Mr. Jeffrey Fager, Producer CBS 60 Minutes.

I feel that your program on Lviv and Ukrainians was most unfair.

To show boy scouts and say they are Nazis marching; to translate "zhid" as Kike (in Western Ukraine Zhid is the word for Jew) to infer that the word for nation natsiya might mean nazi etc. etc. - is most upsetting to many of us who know today’s Ukraine.

It really is time for us to enjoy the resurgence of Jewish life in Ukraine after the horrors of the German occupation and communism and to appreciate the heroic efforts of the Ukrainian people and government to assist the Jewish community in all their endeavors.

The history of Jewish/Ukrainian relations often tragic is a complicated one, but you would have done well to have informed the public of the better aspects of those contacts. For instance Ukraine was the sole independent nation that had complete Jewish national autonomy (1917) and had Yiddish speaking ministers in the government representing the rights of minorities.

Today when Russian Jews send their children to Ukraine for safe keeping in times of danger, no good can come from distortions such as those portrayed in your program....

Congressman Sander Levin [Michigan's 12th Congressional District], Cleveland, Ohio, Oct. 27, 1994

...I want to reiterate: I find the reference, by Morley Safer, to (Ukrainians as) "genetically anti-Semitic" totally reprehensible. No explanation can excuse it, in my judgment.

Martin Plax, Area Director, American Jewish Congress, Cleveland, Ohio (Quoted by Congressman Levin)

...I was amazed by the selective and highly inflammatory way in which the entire report was crafted. So was Rabbi Yakov Bleich, who was sent a videotape of the show by the American Jewish Committee. In a telephone conversation yesterday, Bleich said he was furious with the way his interview was edited. He said that he had told 60 Minutes about the many positive things taking place in Ukraine and that when he said "they want the Jews out" he was referring to small but vocal groups of ultranationalists who are anti-Semitic, but not a significant force in the country.

...If the producers of this segment of 60 Minutes had any integrity they would have at least given Ukrainian government officials an opportunity to indicate directly how they were responding to the ultranationalists and to the two instances when Jews were attacked.

...Efforts are now underway by Jews in Ukraine and by Ukrainian leaders there and in Europe to respond to all of the inaccuracies of that story. It certainly won’t make a difference to 60 Minutes. They’re in the business of attracting viewers, so the more sensational and the more lurid the better.

The Jews who have chosen to remain in Ukraine and to live Jewishly cannot be aided by an eruption of indignation and panic. We can give aid to them however, by supporting the forces that exist within Ukraine which are striving to contain any hatred and promote stability and moderation. If we do anything other, we may learn another lesson: that those who distort the present, by assuming that nothing has changed from the past, will increase the probability that they might relive the past from which they hoped to escape.

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Please note that this site is not affiliated with CBS 60 Minutes. Any e-mail/mail addressed to the CBS Program 60 Minutes will not be responded to. The purpose of this site is to protest the CBS 60 Minutes Program "The Ugly Face of Freedom" which had defamed Ukraine and Ukrainians.

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Copyright © 1994-1998 Andrew Gregorovich

Reprinted from FORUM Ukrainian Review No. 91, 1994
First published in Fall-Winter 1994 and revised April 1998
Published by the Ukrainian Fraternal Association
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Originally Composed: Thursday April 16th 1998.
Date last modified: Thursday February 3rd 2000.