Michael Jordan   Letter 04   12-Jul-1996   Levitas letter to Za Vilnu Ukrainu

July 12, 1996

Michael H. Jordan
Chairman, Westinghouse Electric Corporation
11 Stanwix Street
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
USA         15222

Dear Mr. Jordan:

I am sending you a translation from the Ukrainian of an open letter to Morley Safer and the 60 Minutes staff, written by I. M. Levitas, Head of the Jewish Council of Ukraine as well as of the Nationalities Associations of Ukraine, and published in the Lviv newspaper Za Vilnu Ukrainu (For a Free Ukraine) on December 2, 1994. In this letter, Mr. Levitas protests the 60 Minutes broadcast, "The Ugly Face of Freedom."

Mr. Levitas's letter is a cry both of anguish and of outrage, but its more particular significance to us lies in its bringing to light fresh information demonstrating the bias of the 60 Minutes broadcast, and as well in showing us that Ukrainian Jews are foremost among those waiting for a corrective broadcast, and foremost also among those who are offering their cooperation in the preparation of such a corrective broadcast.

Mr. Levitas suggests that the severity of the bias combined with the total suppression of contradictory information that is evident in the 60 Minutes story is Bolshevik in style.  I would go on to suggest to you that just as the countries of the former Soviet Union cannot hope to thrive without first throwing off the leaders who are inherently Communist in outlook, so CBS News cannot hope to thrive under the leadership of individuals whose attitude toward broadcasting is that it is a tool placed in their hands for the totalitarian manipulation of mass opinion.

Sincerely yours,

Lubomyr Prytulak

cc: Ed Bradley, Steve Kroft, Morley Safer, Lesley Stahl, Mike Wallace


Esteemed Gentlemen!  Esteemed program host, Mr. Safer!

It has come to our attention that on October 23, 1994, American television broadcast a program about events in the city of Lviv and in the Western region of Ukraine.  We have acquainted ourselves with the contents of this program, and have also received feedback from Jews who recently emigrated from Ukraine to the United States.

Our conclusion: from isolated and insignificant facts you created a broadcast in which you overwhelmingly crammed distortions and emphasized the negative aspects of Jewish life, while at the same time hiding the positive aspects which are considerably more numerous.

Everything that you reported in your broadcast unfortunately exists, but exists only as isolated events diluted in the normal flow of life in Lviv.  By focussing on these isolated events, you painted an unrelievedly negative picture, and that constitutes your principal error unless it wasn't an error at all but rather was done intentionally.

We are a young democracy, and the unrestrained expression of democratic freedoms may give birth to untoward manifestations, as is bound to happen in any country, including the United States a country of long-standing democracy.

Many bad things, including attitudes toward Jews, have been bequeathed to us from the past, and it is difficult to wholly eradicate this from the consciousness of the people.

In your broadcast, you mentioned streets that were renamed after Petliura and Bandera, but didn't mention that Frunze Street, which before the war was called Starozhydivska Street ["Ancient Jewish Street"], was also recently renamed Staroyevreiska Street [also "Ancient Jewish Street" but without the negative connotation that "zhyd" has in Russian and in Eastern Ukrainian] and, please note, not to Starozhydivska Street, in deference to Jewish sensibilities.

You broadcast that contemporary Ukrainians don't know about the Yanivsky concentration camp.  Possibly so but there has grown up a generation which has already forgotten about even Auschwitz and Maydanek.  But in fact in Ukraine, we do know about the Yanivsky camp.  Our Jewish Council has established a Yanivsky Camp Foundation.  Here in Lviv, we have held conferences dedicated to the memory of this camp.  Where your broadcast shows a woman carrying flowers, a stone memorial has been erected bearing the Shield of David.  I was present at the unveiling of this memorial.  Representatives of the Lviv City Council made presentations at this ceremony, as did representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic Churches.  I have in my possession a photograph of this event which I could forward to you.

Yes, the fence which you showed, and the dogs, unfortunately are there but these are remnants of the past.  In any case, a decision has been made to get rid of them and to build a memorial in the same location.  You should have reported this.  More to the point, the very first monument in our new Ukraine dedicated to Jewish victims was erected not far from Lviv, in the town of Chervonohrad.  Following that, three other monuments were erected in our region.

You reported that two Jews were robbed and beaten.  This might have happened, but most likely not because they were Jews.  I imagine that in Lviv, Ukrainians are also robbed (and significantly more often!), and yet nobody draws from this the sort of conclusions concerning ethnic hostility that you draw from the robbing of these two Jews.

Our Jewish Council constantly receives news concerning Jews in Ukraine, but during the past five years, we have received not a single report of anyone being beaten because he was a Jew.  However, it must be admitted that such a thing may have occurred without it coming to our attention there are plenty of miscreants in every country.

Because the facts selected for your broadcast were excessively biased and one-sided, it is incumbent upon me to give you a view of the other side of Jewish life.

In Lviv, where seven thousand Jews live, there are thirteen Jewish organizations.  There are also active organizations in the rest of the region in Drohobych, Boryslav, Truskavets.  I can send you all their addresses.  Lviv was the first city in Ukraine to have a Jewish Society (1988), the first Ukraine-Israel Society (1989), and the first to publish a Jewish newspaper (1989).  A Center for the Study of Jewish History is functioning in the city.  Two Jewish-Ukrainian conferences have been held here.  We have a Jewish ensemble, a Jewish theater, a philharmonic orchestra which recently, at the opening of the season, performed the works of Tchaikovsky and of two Jewish composers.  A Jew, Kotlyk, head of the Jewish Society, was elected as a member of the City Council.

Two years ago, in the center of the city, not far from "Hitler Square," a monument dedicated to the victims of the Lviv ghetto was unveiled.  This is the biggest and most prominent Jewish memorial in all of Europe.  Haven't you seen it?

As head of the Jewish Council, I was present at all the events that I am describing, and I can document them.  Your discussing these events in a future broadcast would present a wonderful balance which together with your video footage would paint an accurate picture of Jewish life in Ukraine, and not a deliberately one-sided one.

One cannot indict any nation on the grounds that a few of its members were evil.  Evil individuals exist in every nation.  But why didn't you show those Ukrainians and Poles who rescued Jews?  There are many of them.  Initially, we ourselves didn't know about them, as they remained silent, and our former regime forbade them to speak on such topics.  In Lviv, Simon Wiesenthal himself was rescued from death, and in Boryslav, the head of the Israeli parliament, Shevakh Weiss, with whom in 1992 I personally visited his own rescuers.

We have a list of almost 2,500 Ukrainians who rescued Jews, and many of these are precisely from the Western region.  We have brought these rescuers to Israel, presented them with certificates, and are now supporting them with pensions.  We are presently in the process of submitting this list of rescuers to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.  Concerning this I have been making particular arrangements, as I will be in the United States later this year.

You broadcast that Lviv is being depopulated of Jews.  However, this has been happening throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and began not recently, but even during the Bolshevik regime but nobody is blaming this on anti-Semitism.  Rather, other motives are responsible: economics, Chornobyl, the reunification of families.  Anti-Semitism plays a far weaker role.  Our Council interviews Jewish emigrants and has definitive information on this question.

Jews, perhaps more than others, should avoid throwing blanket insults and accusations at other peoples because they themselves as a people and not as individuals have been blamed by the Fascists for all sins.  Why do you, then, proclaim all Ukrainians to be genetic anti-Semites?  Why, in addition to talking about the police did you not also talk about the rescuers of Jews, did not show a single one of them?  And in Lviv, there are many of them.  Is it that you couldn't find any, or that you didn't want to look?

I wish to declare to you officially: in the new Ukraine, there is no state-sponsored anti-Semitism.  Not long ago, a Jew fulfilled the obligations of the prime minister of Ukraine.  The mayors of Odessa and Vynnytsia are Jews.  The mayor of Cherkasy was a Jew.  There are six Jews in parliament.  Some Deputy Ministers are Jews.  It is such outstanding facts as these that convey the predominant attitude of Ukrainians to Jewish rebirth, to Jewish culture.

Among the CIS, Ukraine was the first to hold a Jewish Congress.  The Days of Jewish Culture were celebrated this year as a National holiday, dedicated to the 135th anniversary of Shalom Aleichem.  In Ukraine, there are active Jewish organisations in 89 cities.  Eleven Jewish newspapers are published.  Ten schools are in operation.  Jewish groups have been formed within Pedagogical and Theatrical Institutes (composed of 80% Ukrainians who have mastered Hebrew).  We have held a festival of children's vocal and dance ensembles in which 46 groups applied to participate.  Ukrainian television broadcasts two Jewish programs.  Jewish spectacles are performed on the stages of Ukraine.

For the fifth year now we have honored the victims of Babyn Yar, where there has been erected the Jewish monument "Menorah," and at which have been placed wreaths both from the President of Ukraine and from the Kyiv City Council.  Just this year, the Days of Babyn Yar commemorations were conducted over the period of an entire week.  In all cities (in all!) in which Jews were shot during the War, annual remembrance days are observed.

All this you failed to see, and so you did great harm not only to Ukrainians, but to Jews as well.

In our work of resurrecting Jewish life, we receive help from such prominent Ukrainian intellectuals and parliamentarians as B. Oliynyk, P. Osadchuk, O. Yemets, D. Pavlychko, V. Yavorivskyi, I. Drach, P. Movchan, M. Shulha, I. Dziuba, V. Durdynets, and many others.  We do not want to return to former times, and yet that is the direction in which your broadcast is pushing us.  You have done as the Bolsheviks used to do you presented information that is one-sided, suppressed information that does not fit your stereotype, biased the selection of materials, strengthened and reinforced negativism.  It would be as if the Los Angeles riots were shown to us here as representative American events.

If you want to convince yourselves that everything I have been saying is true, please come to us and film anything you want.  Please regard this as an official invitation of our Jewish Council.

Certainly there exist many disappointments in our work.  A lot remains to be done in revitalizing Jewish culture.  We cannot immediately realize all our goals.  But this is never merely because we are Jews; it is never attributable to either state-sponsored or spontaneous anti-Semitism.  You must be aware in what a difficult economic situation Ukraine finds itself and yet despite this, the government gives high priority to the support of cultural diversity, included in which is the support of Jewish culture.  For example, the observance of the Days of Jewish Culture in Ukraine was funded entirely by the Ukrainian government close to two billion karbovantsi, and this in our difficult economic times!

It is these many things, then, that are of importance to us, and not the activities of individual ultra-nationalists who don't receive support from most Ukrainians; where in fact most Ukrainians condemn their activities.

Oh, democracy!  Is there any country, even the United States, which has succeeded in ridding itself of anti-Semitism?  And are the American anti-Semites representative of official government attitudes toward Jews?  Or are isolated events in Los Angeles reflective of United States government attitudes toward Blacks?

Esteemed gentlemen!  You didn't do a good thing insulting the Ukrainian people.  Imagine if someone collected similarly true but unrepresentative facts to paint a negative picture of the Jewish people.  Remember the Biblical injunction: Don't do anything to another that you would not want done to yourself.

Please revisit us with an open mind, and not with any fixed bias.  The United States is presently awaiting the visit of our President, and we don't want his visit to be marred by any anti-Ukrainian actions from anybody, especially not from Jews; nor would we want American assistance to our country to depend on isolated individuals who are opposed to granting such assistance.

We await you in Ukraine.


I.M. Levitas

Head of the Jewish Council of Ukraine
Head of the Nationalities Associations of Ukraine