Conservative Rabbis Urge Gorbachev to Release Prisoners of Conscience
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Conservative Rabbis Urge Gorbachev to Release Prisoners of Conscience

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Mikhail Gorbachev, the new Soviet leader, was urged by leading Conservative rabbis meeting here to engage in a new period of cooperation with the West by releasing Soviet Prisoners of Conscience, permitting increased Jewish emigration, and adhering to the Helsinki accords, of which it is a signatory.

At the 85th annual meeting of the 1,200 member Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinic body of Conservative Judaism, President Reagan was urged to include the issue of human rights for Soviet Jews as part of all dialoguesheld between the United States and the USSR, including talks on nuclear arms and trade.

A more direct and personalized plea on behalf of Soviet Jews was issued by a leader of the Black community, the Catholic Church and a Conservative rabbi — all active in helping the cause of human rights and in particular Jews in the Soviet Union. They spoke at a workshop on Soviet Jewry held Tuesday.

Rabbi Allan Sack Meyerowitz of Spring Valley, N.Y. chairman of the RA’s Committee on Soviet Jewry, declared:” True relations and agreements on such issues as trade and nuclear disarmament will never be achieved between the USSR and the United States unless the human rights question is fully and properly addressed by Soviet leaders and new policies adopted.”


Sister Anne Gillen, executive director of the Chicago-based National Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry, called upon Catholics to continue their support of Soviet Jewry. “There can be no real peace in the world until there is at least basic rights for Jews, Catholics and others in the Soviet Union,” she said.

Gillen reported that in 1984, 130 people, all of whom were human rights activists, were arrested and of this group, 41 were brought to trial, many receiving a minimum prison sentence of three years or more. Seven individuals, she said, were put to death.

Meanwhile, Roy Innis, the national chairman of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality based in New York, said that the time has come for the Soviet leadership to “stop acting like a new fledgling government still in their post-1917 revolutionary era and begin to act like a super power.”

Innis called for the USSR to “open up their borders for people to come in and out. There is no need to be afraid of Christians or Jews practicing their religion or people from various ethnic backgrounds to freely practice their own cultural traditions.” He added that if the new Kremlin leaders represent “the younger wave,” and “if there is validity to their sytem, then it must stand the open competition in the modern place of ideas.”

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