PARIS (Oct. 20)
Leaders of the American and French Jewish communities called here yesterday for the release of Soviet Jewish activist losif Begun who was sentenced by a Soviet court this week to seven years’ imprisonment and five year’s internal exile.
The appeal was made at a joint press conference held by Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the leadership of the Representative Council of Major French Jewish Organizations (CRIF).
Observing that Begun’s “crime” in the eyes of the Soviet authorities was his demand to be allowed to emigrate to Israel and the fact that he taught the Hebrew language, Berman said: “It is only fitting that the various Jewish communities should cooperate on an issue as essential as the situation of Soviet Jewry and the fate of the Jewish activists.”
He stressed that the appeal on behalf of Begun “has nothing to do with East-West relations or tensions. It is based strictly on justice and humanitarian considerations.”
Berman met yesterday with CRIF president Theo Klein to consider the possibilities of increased cooperation and coordination between the two representative Jewish organizations. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency later that he hopes to establish a good working relationship with CRIF.
He cited as an example, the need to consult with French Jewry and be briefed on their needs and views before American Jewish leaders meet with prominent French personalities visiting the U.S.
Berman, who is enroute to Israel, also met yesterday, in his capacity of president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, with representatives of the French Consistory, the Union’s French counterpart.