VIENNA (Jan. 28)
World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman revealed today his plans to go to the Soviet Union towards the end of March for talks with Soviet officials in his dual capacity of business executive and a leader of diaspora Jewry. He is the head of Joseph Seagram and Sons Company.
Bronfman told a news conference at the Hilton Hotel here, where the WJC Governing Board is winding up its three-day meeting, that the Soviets had extended him an invitation to visit in both capacities and he was practically on his way just before Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev died.
The timing of his visit, Bronfman told reporters, "is better now than at any other (recent) time because the U.S. and the Soviet Union are beginning to talk, and things are now in a state of thaw."
He expressed the view that the situation of Soviet Jewry fluctuates with the state of relations between the two superpowers. "Soviet Jews are basically hostage to the cold war and the U.S.-USSR climate," he said. If there is a relaxation of tension on other issues, a realization of the situation of Soviet Jews "will be much easier to accomplish."
Bronfman has been to the Soviet Union before as a business executive, and this time he will be leading a business delegation. The Soviets, he said, want to talk business, but are willing to talk with him, in his role as WJC president, on "Jewish matters."
Bronfman told reporters he plans to raise the issue of Soviet Jewry — including increasing Jewish emigration, permitting the Jews who remain there the right to practice and transmit their cultural and religious heritage, and the freeing of Prisoners of Zion. He said that "we will plead for all dissidents — (Anatoly) Shcharansky as well as (Andrei) Sakharov."
Another subject Bronfman hopes to discuss is the holding of a joint commemoration by the Soviets and the WJC, on Soviet soil, of the victory against Nazism. He proposed this idea in a recent meeting with Soviet officials in Washington and they seemed "intrigued" with the idea, he said.
There was also discussion at that meeting of Bronfman’s proposal that a travelling exhibit from the collection of Jewish documents and artifacts in the Leningrad archives be brought to the United States as part of some kind of cultural exchange program. The suggestion met with some enthusiasm and Bronfman hopes to pursue it further in Moscow.
APPEAL FROM EIGHT SOVIET JEWS
Meanwhile, in another development relating to Soviet Jewry, the WJC received an appeal, telephoned to Vienna, from four Jews in Moscow and four in Leningrad, who described themselves as "Jews with Israeli citizenship who are being detained in the USSR." Their appeal read:
"We would like to draw your attention to our critical situation in the USSR — the authorities closed the borders for our repatriation and reinforced the repression. Unfortunately, not all the Jews in the world are yet aware of our unbearable situation, which is not only our problem, but the problem of all Jews in the world." The appeal concluded with a call to the WJC to take all steps to "save us."
The appeal was signed by Dmitry Chazankin, Inna Brochina, Igor Kharakh and Gregory Rifkin of Moscow; and Yakov Gorodetzky, Boris Zelkin, Mikhail Zivin and Mikhail Winaver of Leningrad.