French Jewish Leader, Who Was with Mitterrandin Soviet Union, Says Refusenik Situation Worsening

The situation of Jewish activists in the Soviet Union, bad all along, has gotten worse in recent months, according to Theo Klein, president of the Representative Council of Major French Jewish Organizations (CRIF) who returned last night from a four-day visit to Moscow as the personal guest of President Francois Mitterrand.

Klein was the first Jewish leader ever invited by a head of government to accompany him on an official visit to the Soviet Union. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that Mitterrand’s gesture served to make public opinion more aware of the plight of Soviet Jewry and probably made the Soviet authorities more conscious of the gravity with which the West views this issue.

Klein expressed the hope that the heads of other Western governments would follow Mitterrand’s example and invite Jewish leaders to accompany them to the USSR.

Klein attended all official functions in Moscow. At his request, Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson raised the issue of Soviet Jews at his meetings with Soviet officials, especially Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko who is regarded by many in the West as currently the most powerful man in the USSR after President Konstantin Chernenko.

CHEYSSON DISCUSSES 5 JEWS

Cheysson referred specifically to the cases of five Jewish activists considered most urgent. Klein refused to name them however nor would he say what the Soviet response was.

He told the JTA that he himself managed to meet with a Jewish refusenik in Moscow. He did not identify the man who, he said, has been waiting 10 years for an exit visa. But he said he was told by the refusenik that in recent months the situation has worsened for Jewish activists and many now fear that the Soviet authorities might ban exit visas altogether. They attribute this at least in part to the worsening of East-West relations, Klein said.

On Friday night, the CRIF president attended services at Moscow’s main — and only — synagogue where he found only a handful of elderly people. According to Klein, most Moscow Jews probably knew of his presence but were discouraged by the authorities from trying to approach him. He said he was told that attendance at the Friday night services was less than normal, probably for that reason.

Klein said the rabbi and sexton told him that the congregation’s dues pay for the synagogue’s upkeep. He said the building was in good condition, clean and well kept.

NEXT STORY