WASHINGTON (Feb. 23)
Leonid Rigerman told Congressmen and newsmen today that the Soviet Jewish officials sent to Brussels to try to counteract the world conference on Soviet Jewry were “paid Jews” whose statements there “will be contrary to the facts.” The Soviet Jewish physicist, who arrived in New York last Saturday night after an eight month flight to flee the USSR, said of those officials that “The falseness of their statements will be demonstrated there (in Brussels.)” The press conference, arranged by New York Democratic Reps. James H. Scheuer and William F. Ryan, was attended by a number of other Congressmen, including New York Reps, Emanuel Celler, Bertram Podell, Bella Abzug and Benjamin S. Rosenthal and Sen. Jacob K, Javits, Rigerman said his “main consideration” was aid to “Soviet Jews who are desperately trying to go to Israel to be Jews in the full meaning of that word.” He continued: “It is an international question. We all remember the fate of the Jews in Germany. What’s going on in the Soviet Union is not physical annihilation as in Germany, but spiritual annihilation–which is much more subtle and as terrible as the physical one.” Rigerman said leaving his Russian friends had been like leaving prisoners in “a concentration camp,” and promised to “do what I can for them.”
V. Techernychev, a Washington correspondent for Tass, the Soviet news agency, challenged Rigerman’s charges of Soviet anti-Semitism. The computer programmer replied that having completed a course in physical chemistry he had been unable to obtain a job for four months, being told by one Jewish administrator that he was unacceptable because of his religion. When the Tass man demanded the name of the administrator, Rigerman elicited general laughter by responding: “I’m here now, and he’s there.” The short immigrant, wearing a blue suit, a yellow shirt and a blue-and-white yarmulke, elaborated on his charges: “What is the pretension of the Soviet Union about two Yiddish publications and not a single publication in Hebrew in the Soviet Union? What’s the good of the Yiddish theater if Jews are deprived of all means of studying Yiddish, and if the audience can’t understand what is taking place? Those who say there is no problem have no real understanding of the situation in the Soviet Union. They should live in the Soviet Union and try to be a Jew. Maybe after that they may have something different to tell.” Rigerman was scheduled to meet today with Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Under-Secretary John N. Irwin.