Washington (Jun. 23)
A bi-partisan group of 142 members of Congress has sent a letter to President Reagan urging him to work for the release of some 5000 Jews in Syria. The letter, initiated by Rep. Stephen Solarz (D. NY), noted that the Jews still in Syria are “the remnant of a once flourishing community” and now “face a number of deprivations and handicaps, the most serious of which is denial of the right to emigrate.”
The letter stated that “Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Syrian Jews want nothing more or less than the opportunity to leave Syria so that they can live in freedom in other lands, the Syrian government, in violation of its obligations as a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has refused to let them leave.”
The signatories added, “We recognize that the U.S.-Syrian relationship is a strained one, and that the prospects for significant improvement in the near future are uncertain. Nevertheless, we feel it is important for Syria to know that how they threat the Jewish community, and more specifically, their position with respect to Jewish emigration, will be one of the factors the Reagan Administration will take into account in assessing its policy toward Syria.”
Solarz said the only exception to Syria’s refusal to allow Jews to emigrate occurred in 1977 when he succeeded in getting permission from Damascus for 15 unmarried Jewish women to come to the U.S. so they could marry Jewish men here. “I was pleased to act as matchmaker or ‘shadchen’ for these women, almost all of whom married in Brooklyn,” Solarz said. “The Syrian government has stymied all of our efforts since that time to bring freedom to Jewish citizens who remain in that country, including about 500 single Jewish women who cannot find husbands due to the fact that most unmarried Jewish men have long since left Syria. In the face of Syrian obstinacy on this issue, I believe the U.S. must redouble its efforts” for the release of Syrian Jews, Solarz said.