Jewish Scholars, Denied Visas by USSR to Attend Moscow Symposium. Strongly Protest to Congress
Menu JTA Search

Jewish Scholars, Denied Visas by USSR to Attend Moscow Symposium. Strongly Protest to Congress

Download PDF for this date

The Association for Jewish Studies strongly protested to Congress today on the Soviet government’s refusal to grant visas to four of its representatives and others to attend a three-day symposium in Moscow on Jewish culture.

Three members of the Association, which consists of more than 800 Jewish and non-Jewish scholars in American and Canadian colleges and universities, appeared before the Joint Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe to voice their grievance at being barred from “presenting scholarly papers of interest to the participants.”

The organizers of the symposium, set for Dec. 21-23, are Soviet Jewish scholars who, the Commission was told, have been threatened with arrest and whose apartments in Moscow have been searched by the Soviet secret police. The organizers have appealed to President Ford to intervene with Soviet authorities to allow the symposium to be held.

The problem of visas for the Association delegates and other Americans prepared to deliver papers at the symposium has been undertaken at the State Department where it was indicated to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency the Department was taking a lukewarm attitude on pressing the Soviets in view of U.S. policy to take a low-key approach towards “Soviet internal affairs.”

A Department source informed the JTA that the State Department has raised the matter with the Soviet Embassy “on the working level” but he would not identify the participants or their ranks. Asked if the Department would take it up on a higher level here or in Moscow. the source said that was a “possibility.”


Baruch Levine, professor of Ancient Near Eastern Languages at New York University, and a former president of the Association; Brandeis University sociology professor Marshall Sklare and history professor Henry Feingold of City University of New York, who appeared before the Commission chaired by Rep. Dante Fascell (D. Fla.), were told by Fascell that the full Commission, which comprises Senators, Representatives and members of the Executive branch to monitor the Helsinki accord, will consider their case after the new Congress convenes next month as a part of its record on Soviet compliance. Fascell himself and other members of Congress were refused Soviet visas last month in their attempt to visit the USSR.

Besides the three professors who appeared here today, the Association was also to have been represented in Moscow by Jewish studies professor Irving Greenberg of CUNY.

Others refused visas, the Commission was told, are Brown University Prof. Jacob Neusner; Rabbi Harold Schulweiss, a professor at the University of Southern California; Prof. Charles Liebman of the Jewish Theological Seminary; Brandeis Prof. Leon Jick; Eli Wiesel, a French citizen; and Columbia University professor Joshua Herzog, a Canadian. They reported their understanding that the French and Swedish delegations also have been rejected by Soviet authorities.

Neusner said in Providence, R.I. yesterday that the group was informed shortly before their scheduled departure for Moscow that their visa requests were denied. He said Soviet officials gave as reasons the fact that the invitations to the symposium had not been issued by the Soviet government and that there were not enough chairs in the apartment where the symposium was to take place.

In addition they noted that Joshua Fishman, a Yeshiva University professor of linguistics, had been refused a visa for a general linguistics conference in the Soviet Union. As a result, a group of U.S. colleges refused send representatives to it in opposition to such discrimination.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund