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Presidents Conference Supports Extension of Rumania’s Mfn Status

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Jack Spitzer, president of B’nai B’rith International, told a Congressional panel yesterday that the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations supports another one-year approval of most favored nation (MFN) status for Rumania in view of its record on Jewish emigration. But he said continued close scrutiny was necessary, as well as changes in the procedures required by Rumania for applicants for emigration permits.

Spitzer, testifying on behalf of the Presidents Conference before the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Trade which is considering extension of Rumania’s MFN status, said, “We find the agreement (on freer Jewish emigration from Rumania) is being substantially fulfilled and we have received cooperation from the Rumanian government, but many problems are still to be resolved.”

Testimony was also given by Jacob Birnbaum, director of the Center for Russian and Eastern European Jewry, who told the subcommittee that Rumania should revert to an exit rate of 3000-4000 Jews a year, as was the case in the early 1970s. He noted that after Rumania obtained MFN status, Jewish emigration was cut from 4000 in 1973 and 1974 to 1000 in recent years. He said that “Just as Rumania’s migration in West Germany and the United States has been somewhat regularized at 11,000 and 3,000 yearly respectively, so too a reasonable arrangement should be made for Jewish emigration at the earlier rate of 3000 to 4000 annually.”

One problem cited by Spitzer with respect to Rumanian emigration procedures was the requirement that prospective emigrants must appear at a police station to request the appropriate forms. He contended that such a procedure is “intimidating.” He said the Presidents Conference recommended that the government allow applicants to request the forms through the offices of Rumania’s Chief Rabbi, Moses Rosen.

SOME DELAYS CALLED UNREASONABLE

Spitzer also cited delays of longer than five months between initial application and the issuance of passports which, he said, was “an unreasonable period for a would-be emigrant to wait.” He said in some cases, applicants and their families had to wait for years, an undue hardship that deterred other Jews from applying for exit permits.

According to Spitzer, a backlog of 527 cases presently exists of Rumanian Jews seeking to emigrate. He said that of a list of 520 names he presented to the Rumanian authorities when he visited Bucharest last April, the government recently informed him that 170 persons have been granted permission to leave. “This still leaves a backlog of 350 persons, 112 of whom have been waiting for approval for more than a year, ” he said. There are 177 new applications filed since January 1, 1980 that have not been acted upon favorably as of June 2, of this year, he said.

Spitzer acknowledged however that “a number of difficult cases have been resolved with the Rumanian government since the agreement was reached in 1979″ and that the pool of potential emigrants is diminishing because of the advancing age of much of the Jewish population.

Birnbaum noted that only 282 Rumanian Jews reached Israel during the first five months of 1981, on average of 56 a month, in contrast to the 250-350 who were arriving monthly several years ago.

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