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Orthodox Leader Says ZOA ‘subverts’ Rescue Efforts for Soviet Jews

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The executive president of Agudath Israel of America charged today that Herman L. Weisman, president of the Zionist Organization of America, was “subverting rescue efforts for Russia’s Jews” by his “adamant refusal” to cease his opposition to a bill for 30,000 emergency visas for such Jews. Rabbi Moshe Sherer said Weisman’s stand “recalls bitter memories of postwar politics by certain Zionist representatives who harassed any rescue efforts for Jewish refugees which brought them to any other land than Israel.” Rabbi Sherer continued: “Playing politics with Jewish lives, even when motivated by a lofty ideal, is reprehensible to Judaism. Moreover, by transforming the struggle for Soviet Jewry exclusively into an ‘aliya’ issue, the ZOA seriously harms any prospects of actually helping save the physical and spiritual life of Russia’s Jews.”

Rabbi Sherer stated further that “ZOA proxy Mr. Weisman is also uninformed about the facts when he claims that there is no ‘appreciable number of Soviet Jews’ who wish to come to the U.S.A.” There are actually “many” such Jews, the Agudath Israel president said, “but all their efforts have been frustrated by Soviet officials.” Rabbi Sherer concluded that it was “deplorable that the Zionist Federation of America has not publicly disassociated itself from the ZOA statement.” Advised of Rabbi Sherer’s charges by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Weisman said they were “distorted” and “impertinent” and tended to “divert attention” from the issue. The emergency-visa bill introduced by Rep. Edward I. Koch, New York Democrat, is “redundant,” Weisman said, because there are already “so many unused visas.” He said that whereas 20,000 Soviet Jews were admittable this year, only 97 had arrived, and that there has been no progress on the 3,000 applications by Americans for Russian Jews to come here. He agreed with the Orthodox leader that the visas were being blocked by the Soviet government. Sherer’s charges were the latest in a series of Orthodox protests against Weisman’s position.

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