WASHINGTON (Dec. 28)
Senate and House backers of legislation linking freedom of emigration to U.S.-Soviet trade are preparing to resubmit their bills jointly approximately two weeks after Congress convenes on Jan. 3.
Aides in the office of Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D. Wash.) and Rep. Charles Vanik (D. Ohio) told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that new support for their legislation is being sought from freshmen Congressmen. Five of the 76 Senators who co-sponsored the Jackson Amendment have dropped out this session. Support among the 13 newly elected Senators is expected to more than offset this loss.
The Jackson Amendment, which would withhold most-favored-nation status and credit privileges from Communist nations which violate emigration rights, continues to enjoy a firm foothold in the Senate, where 51 constitutes a majority. The corresponding Vanik Bill has so far failed to clear the minimum majority mark of 216 in the Home. Mark Talisman, administrative assistant to Vanik, attributes this lesser showing to a lack of publicity. "There is no heat in the House" for this legisla- tion, he told the JTA. "Everyone assumes that all the action is with the Jackson Amendment in the Senate."
Last session the Vanik Bill was co-sponsored by 134 representatives when it was introduced at the same time as the Jackson Amendment on Oct. 4, 1972. All the legislation, including the Nixon Administration’s East-West Trade Relations Act, must be resubmitted this session because it failed to pass before Congress adjourned.
Representative Vanik’s office issued letters four days ago appealing for new support. So far five of the 69 freshmen Representatives have responded with pledges to co-sponsor the bill.
The East-West Trade Relations Act, introduced by Sen. Warren G. Magnuson (D. Wash.), is crucial to the expansion of U.S.-Soviet trade. The Soviets insist upon most-favored-nation status before repaying some of the World War II lend-lease. If the USSR reneges on lend-lease, the U.S. insists there can be no trade expansion. Magnuson’s office told the JTA it had set no date for reintroducing its trade legislation. According to an aide in Jackson’s office. "The Nixon Administration is spending a lot of time trying to circumvent our move."
BACKGROUND TO NICARAGUA CATASTROPHE
Virtually all of Nicaragua’s tiny Jewish community of about 120 persons lived in Managua and maintained a community center with a synagogue constructed about 15 years ago. The small, unpretentious one-story building of masonry construction was reportedly destroyed by the earthquake which leveled the Nicaraguan capital Saturday.
The center, distinguished by stars of David in its windows, was situated less than half a kilometer from the cathedral and occupied a corner on the main thoroughfare leading to the airport. Community members gathered there almost nightly for social purposes and conducted prayer services regularly Friday evenings and on holidays.
For the services, the men would sit at a long table covered with a white cloth. Their services were in the Ashkenazi style. The community never had a rabbi. Hebrew education for the children was conducted by a knowledgeable local person or occasionally by an itinerant teacher.
Most of Managua’s Jews are of Polish and Rumanian origin, welcomed to Nicaragua early in the Nazi period by the late Luis Somoza, father of General Anastasia Somoza, commander of Nicaragua’s army and a former President who is directing the rescue effort in Managua. The Somoza family always maintained warm relations with the Jewish community and Nicaragua’s United Nations representatives nearly always supported Israel.
Since it became a state 25 years ago, Israel has been represented in Managua by an Honorary Consul selected from the Jewish community. The Israeli Ambassador in a nearby country was accredited to the Nicaraguan Government. At first it was the envoy in Mexico, later in Guatemalans and now the Ambassador in Costa Rica which has a thriving Jewish community of about 1800 persons, nearly all of Eastern European origin.
JEWISH COMMUNITY HELD IN ESTEEM
The first Jewish settlers in Nicaragua came from France 100 years ago. They were boys in their upper teens who founded commercial establishments with ties to Paris and other French cities from which they had emigrated. Some of them returned to France, but most remained with their business, some of which continue in the hands of their descendants and are in the forefront of Managuan retail commerce.
The majority had assimilated to a great extent before the arrival of the first Eastern Europeans in the late 1920’s. Sons of several mixed marriages rose to high positions in the Government. Their pride in their Jewish origin was reflected during Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War.
The Eastern European emigrants arrived virtually penniless in Nicaragua. Some of them pioneered in the textile industry and others participated in modern construction and hotel development in Managua. Most Nicaraguan Jews remained small-time traders. Presumably both the wealthy and not-so-well-off lost their possessions, if not their lives, in the catastrophe.
Altogether, the community from its very beginnings held the respect and even esteem of many Nicaraguans and was considered a valued if tiny segment of that nation. The Nicaraguan Jewish community is a member of the Central American Jewish Federation which, besides Costa Rica, consists of Guatemala with about 1500 Jews, El Salvador with about 300, Honduras with only 100 divided between two cities, and Panama, with about 3200 Jews, the largest in the Central American-Panama area.