Moscow Symposium Leaders Arrested; U.S. Raps Move As Inconsistent with the Accords Signed in Helsink
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Moscow Symposium Leaders Arrested; U.S. Raps Move As Inconsistent with the Accords Signed in Helsink

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The arrest in Moscow today of at least 10 of the Jewish organizers of the cultural symposium that was scheduled to begin today and end Thursday was criticized by the U.S. government as inconsistent with the Helsinki accords.

According to reports from Moscow, the organizers were arrested as they left their homes on their way to the symposium. Among those reportedly arrested were Prof. Benjamin Fein, the symposium’s chairman, Grigory Rosenshtein, Paval Abramovich, Leonid Volvovsky, Vladimir Prestin, Alexander Lerner, Joseph Ahs, Felix Kandel and Arkady Mai.

At the same time, none of the foreign scholars who had been scheduled to participate in the symposium had arrived for today’s opening meeting, apparently because they had been refused visas. The foreign scholars were from the United States, Israel, Britain and Sweden.


Commenting on the developments, a State Department spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We find these Soviet actions disturbing and regrettable. We have on two occasions urged the Soviet Embassy to grant visas to eight American scholars who worked to attend this symposium. It is certainly not consistent with the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki agreements) whose provisions call for the development of human contacts and cooperation and exchanges in this cultural area.”

The Association of Jewish Studies, an organization of more than 800 Jewish and non-Jewish scholars at colleges and universities, had protested to the U.S. Commission monitoring Soviet compliance with the Helsinki accords after the Soviet government had rejected the visa applications of four American scholars representing the Association to attend the symposium.

On Dec. 15, the day of the Commission’s hearing on the Association’s protest, the State Department took up with the Soviet Embassy the matter of the rejection of the visas for the Association representatives and four other members who had sought to present papers at the symposium. Two days after the hearing, the Department raised the level of its protest to the Soviet Union. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Jack Armitage, discussed the visa rejections with the immediate subordinates to the Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin.


Late this afternoon, the student Struggle for Soviet Jewry reported in New York that at least 50 Moscow Jews and 60 from other Soviet cities were detained to prevent them from participating in the symposium, according to reports reaching the SSSJ and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. None of the organizers were able to reach the gathering attended by 50 persons, including Prof. Andrei Sakharov, in a Moscow apartment, the SSSJ reported.

After seven papers were presented, those present voted to close the symposium, which its organizers had hoped would last for three days, according to the SSSJ. Three attorneys from Norfolk, Va. who had come to participate, were expelled from the USSR it was reported. In addition, 15 more phones of Jewish activists were disconnected.

Meanwhile, the SSSJ reported, the symposium organizing committee released a Chanuka message “to Jewish people everywhere.” It stated: “The deep crisis through which Soviet Jewry is now going reminds one of the distant past when Jews were facing mass Hellenization and spiritual subjugation. The events of the last few years such as the desire of a part of Soviet Jewry to retain its entity shows there is still a possibility to build a Jewish life so that the words ‘I am a Jew’ will be filled with meaning and a Jew would not remember his origin only while facing an anti-Semite.”

In events related to the Moscow symposium, solidarity conferences were held in a number of cities across the country, including New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Philadelphia and Cambridge, Mass. (Story on these events will be in Dec. 23 issue of the Bulletin.)

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