WASHINGTON (Feb. 2)
Dr. Esther Aisenstadt, who gave up her professional career in Moscow to immigrate to Israel last November, said here yesterday that at least 300,000 Soviet Jews were seeking to leave for Israel despite threats of arrest or loss of employment. The Kremlin, she said at a press conference arranged by B’nai B’rith, “never expected so many would want to leave.” The 52-year-old linguist was joined at the press conference by her husband, Leizer Napomnyasty, 59, a Russian-English interpreter from Moscow; and Mrs. Alla Rusinek, a 21-year-old newlywed who left the Soviet Union last November a week after her marriage, although her husband remained behind pending approval of his emigration applications. The press conference was filmed by a West German television crew.
Dr. Aisenstadt and her husband–who had signed the public “Letter of the 39” repudiating a Soviet press conference at which 52 Jews dented Soviet anti-Semitism–said here yesterday that “every decent person–Jew and non-Jew–is ashamed of that press conference.” She described it as an event at which “you put Jews under the press and stage a conference,” and that those who believed it have it “on their conscience.” Most of her fellow faculty members in Moscow sympathized with the plight of Soviet Jews, she observed, “but of course they can’t speak out about it.” Dr. Aisenstadt said she had been the last Jew in her department.
Mrs. Rusinek, noting that many Soviet Jewish parents were unaware of their Jewishness, declared that “the reversal of our feelings is a miracle.” She elaborated: “We now speak of thousands who go to the synagogue to express our feelings in songs. We study Hebrew. It’s very dangerous, subversive…Textbooks are confiscated when they are found by police.” She said “the six-Day War helped us understand our Jewishness, that there is some place for Jews,” and added: “We didn’t know what it is to be Jewish, but we knew what it is to be a Jew in Russia.