NEW YORK (Dec. 6)
At the first of a series of press conferences at which celebrities will spotlight the plight of Soviet Jews, a telephone call was placed today to Dr. Leonid Tarassuk of Leningrad, who was fired as curator of The Hermitage after applying for a visa to Israel. The former museum official reported: “Things are the same here. We hope we may be able to leave, but they have not changed.”
Dr. Tarassuk’s expressive and extensive greetings–“I thank all Americans. We know what you are all doing for us. Thank you, thank you” –moved soprano Beverly Sills and other activists at the press conference to tears. The call was placed by Clive Barnes, dance and drama critic of the New York Times. The press conference was sponsored by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and Artists and Writers for Peace in the Middle East (AWPME).
Among those participating were writer Ger-old Frank; sculptor Louise Nevelson: Richard Scheuer, board chairman of the Jewish Museum; Mrs. Berta Ulman, formerly of Riga, whose 26-year-old son Mischa, was denied an emigration visa and fired from his engineer’s Job; and Monica Bloom, administrative assistant to Rep. Edward I. Koch (D.N.Y.). Miss Bloom recently visited Dr. Tarassuk.
Appeals were sent to Soviet President Nikolai V. Podgorny and Culture Minister Ekaterina Furtseva above the signatures of the participants at the press conference and tenor Richard Tucker. The appeals, citing “arbitrary” rebuffs to Soviet Jews seeking emigration, declared: “We do not believe that any State has the right to hold its citizenry against its will, or to impose exorbitant fees on those who are finally allowed to leave, in order to be able to live as their traditions and conscience compel them.”
The letters stressed the cases of Valery Panov, Vladimir Slepak, Viktor Polsky, Boris Penson and Dr. Tarassuk, asserting: “These people are neither allowed to leave nor allowed to work. Their human and creative needs frustrated, only their remarkable courage fuels their persistent demand to live as Jews and to be allowed to emigrate.” The writers asked that on Dec. 30, the 50th anniversary of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, amnesty be granted “to Soviet Jewish Prisoners of Conscience whose goal is repatriation to Israel.”