New York (Dec. 30)
While the number of Jews allowed to leave the Soviet Union in 1981 was the lowest in the past 10 years, the harassment and persecution of Russian Jews increased and became more brutal, it was reported here today at a press conference at the Roosevelt Hotel, sponsored jointly by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry (GNYCSJ) and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ).
According to Dr. Seymour Lachman; chairman of the GNYCSJ, the number of Jews allowed to
leave the USSR this year was 9,249 compared to a 10-year high in 1979 when 51,320 Jews left the Soviet Union, and 21,471 in 1980. This year’s figures, Lachman noted, do not include numbers for the last 11 days of 1981. However, no mor than 175 Jews are expected to receive permission to leave the Soviet Union during this period.
To illustrate the staggering decline of the Jewish exodus from Russia, Lachman pointed out that in August 1981 only 430 Jews emigrated — an all-time low for a single month. Each succeeding month of 1981 was lower still, with only 363 Jews leaving the Soviet Union in November, a mere 10 percent of the 4,193 Jews who arrived in Vienna in November 1979, the peak year for Jewish emigration, Lachman noted.
While the emigration movement dwindled to a trickle, the three million Jews living in the USSR are gravely mistreated — their human rights usurped and anti-Semitism encouraged by the authorities, Lachman claimed.
He warned that “The survival of Jewish culture and Jewish identity of some three million Jews is at stake” in the Soviet Union. He charged that the Soviet Union has become the major source for anti-Semitic literature in recent times. He also disclosed that more Jewish activists were arrested in 1981 than in any single year since 1970.
ESTIMATED 500,000 JEWS ‘INTERNED’
Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R. NY) said that about a half million Jews are estimated to have applied for exit visas and they are “interned” in the Soviet Union against their will. He said the sanctions imposed yesterday on the USSR by President Reagan because of the situation in Poland should also be applicable to the situation of Soviet Jewry.
D’Amato charged that the Soviet Union “virtually halted the emigration of Jews. This is a flagrant violation of the letter and spirit of the Helsinki accords of 1975 which committed the Soviet Union to allowing the free movement of people — including the right to emigrate.”
D’Amato, who is a member of the Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe which monitors Soviet compliance with the Helsinki accords, said he is going to increase its efforts in the Senate and among other Senators on behalf of Soviet Jews.
28 CONGRESSMEN SIGN PETITION
Rep. Theodore Weiss (D. NY) announced that he and 27 other Congressmen from the greater New York area have already signed a petition to Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev calling upon him to permit the emigration of Soviet Jews and to “free all Jewish Prisoner of Conscience.”
He said he expects every member of the House to sign the petition. The NCSJ and the GNYCSJ expect more than one million people to sign the petition. Lachman said that so far 85,000 persons signed it.
JEWS ARE ‘UNWILLING HOSTAGES’
Meanwhile, Theodore Mann, chairman of the NCSJ, said in a statement today that “the sharpest decline in emigration, which occured in the last six months of this year, suggests that the Jewish minority (in the USSR) may have become hostage to U.S.-Soviet relations. If so, they are unwilling hostages”
He called upon world leadership to awaken to the current critical situation for Soviet Jews and appealed to the U.S. government to “take vital steps to make certain that the tragic plight of more than two million Jews in the Soviet Union receives attention necessary for their security and well being.”
In urging President Reagan to take action, Mann stated that it is essential that “this issue be placed on the agenda of the forthcoming meeting between Secretary of State Alexander Haig and (Soviet) Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko when they meet at the end of January.”