Nixon Criticized for Stand on Soviet Jewry

Two Jewish leaders criticized today the Nixon administration policy on Soviet Jewry that was presented by President Nixon on Tuesday to 32 Jewish leaders meeting with him at the Waldorf-Astoria. Rabbi Arthur J. Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress, and Harold Ostroff, president of the Workmen’s Circle, criticized Nixon’s decision not to make the plight of Soviet Jewry an issue of public “confrontation” but to deal with it through “diplomatic channels.”

“The abhorrence our government feels over the persecution of Soviet Jewry is consoling but ineffective as long as it finds no expression in practical action,” Rabbi Hertzberg asserted. “We do not see it as ‘confrontation’ for the President to make clear both to the American people and to the Soviet leadership that the US will not grant major economic benefits to the Soviet Union while that country continues to blackmail Russian Jews seeking to emigrate.”

Rabbi Hertzberg, who on Tuesday asked Nixon not to seek most favored nation status for the USSR until it retracts its exit fees for educated Jewish emigrants, added today: “There is gross immorality to placing a prohibitive price tag on human freedom. It is incumbent upon our government not to acquiesce in that injustice but to resist it in all its dealings with the USSR.”

Ostroff advised Nixon in a telegram that he was “shocked” at the view that “pressures” on the Soviet Union to eliminate exit fees on Jewish citizens “constitutes unwarranted ‘harsh confrontation’ and that the issue is not worthy of public debate.” Voicing additional “shock” at the administration’s “opposition to withholding favored nation treatment until the ransom demands are withdrawn,” Ostroff wrote that “Gains for Soviet Jews have surely been abetted by nonpartisan and vigorous public activities on their behalf.”

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