NEW YORK (Dec. 12)
Actions on behalf of Ida Nudel, the “guardian angel” of Soviet Jewish Prisoners of Conscience who is now, herself, sentenced to exile in Siberia, took place Monday in 80 cities across the country by Women’s Plea for Soviet Jewry under the aegis of the Leadership Conference on National Jewish Women’s Organizations.
In New York, “Reach Out” was the singular challenge in addresses to the New York Women’s Plea. Some 200 organization delegates were convened by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry (GNYCSJ) and B’nai B’rith Women to rally wide public support for Nudel.
Rep. Jonathan Bingham (D. NY), the key note speaker, emphasized, “All we are asking is that Ida Nudel be granted her rights under the Helsinki Final Act and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights–both endorsed by the Soviet Union.” As evidence of the Soviet Jewry’s success potential, he pointed to the 50,000 -plus emigration figure for 1979, which he termed a record total.
“But, this success must not cause us to lessen our efforts,” Bingham said. “Soviet authorities know of our concern for Ida Nudel but we must make certain that they know our dedication to her and other prisoners will not waver until we see them stepping off the plane in Tel Aviv.”
NEW RESTRICTIONS CITED
This note of warning was reinforced vigorously by Margy-Ruth Davis, GNYCSJ executive director, who pointed to ominous signs of crackdown on future emigration by Soviet authorities. “1980 will be a pivotal year. Devious new Soviet policies–now in place–can set us back for years to come.”
These new restrictions, she said, “would limit the chances of Soviet Jews even to apply for a visa by redefining the concept of family to mean only first-degree relatives. This effectively foils the hopes of thousands of Jews who seek to emigrate for ‘reunification.’ Other threats include education-work contracts, restrictive visa office schedules and a vicious new policy of parent-child denunciations as pre-requisites to application.”
The “outreach” theme was echoed, also, by Velma Hill, Assistant to the President of the United Federation of Teachers, who stressed the essential need for coalition between Jews and Blacks: “We must realize that our communities are not monolithic. The struggle for freedom does not stop at water’s edge. We stand by the values that have held us together in our eternal commitment to freedom for all peoples.”
In a show of solidarity, Women’s Plea delegates marched to the gates of the United Nations where a message from Israel’s UN Ambassador Yehuda Blum was read: The program concluded with a reading by Leona Chanin, chairwoman of the Leadership Conference from a letter by Ilana Friedman–sister of Ida Nudel: ” I gain strength from you good Americans and so many good people the world over who press for Ida’s release and her right to join me here in Israel.”
SOVIET EMBASSY REJECTS APPEAL
In Washington, members of the Congressional Wives Committee for Soviet Jewry, a nationwide organization under the sponsorship of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry’s Washington office, delivered a letter to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin at the Soviet Embassy on behalf of Nudel and other POCs. The letter was not accepted.
The written appeal expressed the Congressional Wives sensitivity, as women, to the plight of our ‘sister’ Ida Nudel who languishes now in exile in Siberia.” The appeal added: “Although we also would seek to ease the suffering of others in prison…we are especially sensitive to the pain of Ida Nudel’s ordeal.”
The nationwide actions, in which the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council cooperated, marked the anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the observance of International Human Rights Day.
REPORT ON SHCHARANSKY’S CONDITION
In San Francisco, the Bay Area Council on Soviet Jewry urged the Soviet Union to grant amnesty to Anatoly Shcharansky. Regina Waldman, director of the Bay Area Council, said “Shcharan sky’s name is synonymous with human rights.” She said that recent reports from the USSR indicate that his health is rapidly deteriorating. According to his mother, Ida Milgrom, Shcharanky suffers from a constant state of fever and chills; has acute pains in his head, eyes and chest; has blurred vision; and has lost one-third of his body weight.
Specialists at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Israel have stated, Ms. Waldman reported: “Although the information available does not permit an accurate diagnosis … (the symptoms) are indications of severe organic disease….It is clear that the continuation of Shcharansky’s imprisonment endangers his life.”
In a related Human Rights Day action, Shirley Leviton, president of the National Council of Jewish Women, sent a telegram to the White House urging President Carter to continue to speak out against oppression around the world. Noting that Human Rights Day “is especially poignant this year” when American citizens are being held hostage in Iran and thousands of children are suffering in Cambodia she concluded: “The Holocaust of the 1940s as well as the current oppression of Jews in Syria, Ethiopia and the Soviet Union has taught us that silence encourages tyranny.”