WASHINGTON (Sep. 11)
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D. Mass.) announced today that he has been assured by Soviet authorities that 18 Jewish and non-Jewish families who have been seeking to emigrate for years will be allowed to leave the Soviet Union. Kennedy, who just returned from a week-long visit to the USSR, said he received this assurance after meeting with Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev.
One of those to receive a visa, Kennedy said, is Prof. Benjamin Levich, a Corresponding Member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. He has been seeking to emigrate to Israel since 1972.
The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ), in welcoming the announcement, noted that Levich is the highest ranking Soviet Jewish scientist to seek an emigration visa and if he is allowed to leave the SSSJ believes that many other Soviet Jewish scientists will apply for visas.
Kennedy said that visas are also to be given to Boris and Natasha Katz and their 10-month-old daughter Jessica. The infant suffers from a rare digestive ailment which can be treated only by a formula made in the United States. The Katz case was brought to wide public attention by the Boston-based Action for Soviet Jewry which has arranged for the infant to receive the formula.
While in the Soviet Union, Kennedy met with Boris Katz. He also met with Ida Milgrim and Leonid Shcharansky, the mother and brother of Anatoly Shcharansky; Dr. Alexander Lerner and Victor Elistratov.
Among other Jews mentioned by Kennedy scheduled to receive emigration visas are former Prisoner of Conscience Lev Roitburg, of Odessa, and Moscow refuseniks Alexander Bolshoi, Galina Nizhikov and Olga Serocva. “I have every expectation that all of these families will be permitted to leave for the United States or Israel in the very near future,” Kennedy said.
ANNOUNCEMENT HAILED BY JEWISH GROUPS
The announcement by the Senator was hailed by representatives of Jewish groups who were present at Kennedy’s press conference. Aaron Goldman, former chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC), speaking for NJCRAC chairman Theodore Mann, welcomed the news that Kennedy’s intercession had helped in the promised release of 18 families. “We hope this news signals that the Soviet Union intends not only to increase emigration numbers, but also to modify emigration procedures so as to ensure that Soviet Jews will no longer be faced with the arbitrary and capricious handling of their applications.”
Marina Wallach, Washington representative of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ), and David Blumberg, a member of its executive committee, said: “These Soviet Jews who have been waiting long years, under constant surveillance by the Soviet Secret Police (KGB), can finally begin to live their lives in freedom, after their long ordeal of waiting.”
But the NCSJ officials pointed out that these people are among thousands of Soviet Jews who “remain behind, under threat of harassment, arrest and possible trial.” They pledged to “continue our efforts for those still seeking their right to emigrate.”