Avital Shcharansky to First Lady: Please Do Not Forget My Husband
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Avital Shcharansky to First Lady: Please Do Not Forget My Husband

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Avital Shcharansky, whose imprisoned husband Anatoly is recognized throughout the world as a symbol of Soviet Jewry’s struggle for aliya and cultural and religious freedom, handed a letter to First Lady Rosalynn Carter in historic Congress Hall Monday night.

According to Al Erlick and David Gross, associate editors of the Jewish Exponent, the dramatic presentation, witnessed by a capacity audience, was the emotional highlight of “Forum on Madrid; Promises and Realities,” cosponsored by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Soviet Jewry Council of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia.

The forum was designed to focus attention on the plight of Soviet Jewry prior to the official opening on Nov. 11 of the international conference in Madrid, which is to review compliance with the Helsinki Accords, including “Basket Three, ” devoted to human rights.

In her letter, which was addressed to President Carter, Mrs. Shcharansky said:

“I am happy for this opportunity to meet your dear wife at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, in the city of freedom, and brotherly love. Very soon the conference in Madrid will be held to review the Helsinki Accords. Please do not forget my husband, Anatoly Shcharansky. You were so kind to speak up on his behalf when he was first arrested, and now, he is still serving his sentence. My husband was suffering with illness and he was in a prison hospital. He is falsely accused simply because he wanted to be reunited with me in Israel. My husband needs your help to be released. Can you increase your support to free my brave husband, Anatoly Shcharansky?”

Mrs. Carter pledged her husband’s continuing support for the cause of Soviet Jewry.


A panel discussion, moderated by Abraham Karlikow, director of the Foreign Affairs Department of the American Jewish Committee, attempted to assess the possibilities of the Madrid human rights review procedure.

While the panelists held out little hope that Madrid would materially change Soviet repressive actions, they stressed that activists in the cause of Soviet Jewry must continue to use all available means to keep the issue before the world, thereby maintaining pressure on the Soviets.

At a dinner at the Warwick Hotel following the forum, Mrs. Shcharansky revealed that Soviet authorities had cancelled the upcoming visit to her husband of his mother and brother. She also told the assembly that his health had improved since his recent hospitalization, but that prison life was taking a continuing tall.


The principal address was delivered by R. Spencer Oliver, deputy chairman of the U.S. delegation to the Madrid review proceedings. His message was a somber one. Soviet authorities, stung by Western criticism which had dominated the five-month review process which ended in Belgrade in March, 1978, were attempting to change the rules under which human rights violations could be discussed. Western diplomats were holding firm at the moment, he said, but he offered little assurance that the Western Europeans would maintain their staunchness as the 11th hour approached.

At issue is the length of time that will be devoted to the subject of human rights and the duration of the meetings, which were opened in Belgrade but which the Soviets want to be limited in Madrid. In Belgrade, for example, Oliver explained, human rights discussions lasted nine weeks. If the Soviets have their way, they would be wrapped up in two and one-half days in Madrid.

Oliver cautioned that Nov. 11 might see only a continuation of preliminary wrangling and intimated that the Madrid conference might never get off the ground. The U.S., he said, was determined that specific violations and specific personalities should be discussed.

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