WASHINGTON (Apr. 28)
The virtual halt to Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union has not silenced the Soviet Jewry movement, Gerald Kraft, president of B’nai B’rith International, told the Annual Leadership Conference of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.
Instead, he said, the movement has “regained momentum,” pointing to the recent World Conference on Soviet Jewry and the B’nai B’rith “Day of Solidarity” as a “turning point in the current history of the Soviet Jewry Movement. If the Kremlin thought three years of heightened repression of Soviet Jews could snuff us out it now knows better.”
Kraft made his remarks when he accepted the NCSJ’s 1983 Merit Award honoring B’nai B’rith International for its programs on behalf of Soviet Jewry. The award cited B’nai B’rith in particular for sponsoring worldwide demonstrations that coincided with, and underscored, the March 15-17 World Conference on Soviet Jewry in Jerusalem.
The events, which took place in 105 communities in 11 countries, included demonstrations, rallies, prayer vigils and other activities, designed Kraft said, to remind people of the “worsening plight of the Soviet Union’s Prisoners of Zion.” Thousands of Jews and non-Jews of all ages participated in the programs, he said.
Kraft told the NCSJ that the Soviet Jewry movement has developed strong allies in the form of Western governments and humanitarians “willing to give of themselves to further our cause.” And, he said, the media “to the surprise of many” showed a willingness to feature the Soviet Jewry issue.
He said that the Soviet Jewry movement must now maintain and strengthen its alliances, continue to monitor East-West diplomatic contacts with the Soviets and strive to publicize the Soviet Jewry issue as much as possible. The United States, he said, by repeatedly raising the Soviet Jewry issue in all past high-level negotiations with the Kremlin has “kept the issue alive and given our movement clout. There can be no doubt that without America’s support we would have had little influence on the USSR.”