Jews Urged to Call for U.S. Divestitute in the Soviet Union
Menu JTA Search

Jews Urged to Call for U.S. Divestitute in the Soviet Union

Download PDF for this date

Rabbi Avraham Weiss, national chairman of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ), has called upon Jews and Jewish organizations to make the same demands for divestiture concerning any United States interests in the Soviet Union as they have been making for South Africa.

Speaking yesterday at the SSSJ’s annual Tisha B’Av prayer service, held one block from the Soviet Mission to the United Nations in Manhattan, Weiss emphasized strong approval for divestiture in South Africa while scoring those who would neglect to exert similar pressure upon the Soviet Union to end its repression of Jews.

“All power to those who seek to end racism in South Africa,” he stressed, adding immediately that “asking for divestiture in South Africa without calling for an equal demand for divestiture from the Soviet Union is a double standard.”


Weiss was using the occasion of the day of fasting and prayer to introduce a campaign that the SSSJ will begin in a few months for divestiture of government funds in companies that deal with the Soviet Union.

According to Glenn Richter, SSSJ national coordinator, the organization has found recently that New York and other states are moving toward divestiture in corporations that deal with South Africa, and is asking for similar action regarding investments in the Soviet Union.

Richter said he has a list of 200-300 companies that dealt in the 1970’s with the USSR. Although there are fewer today, in part resulting from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, many firms today still have hefty investments in the Soviet Union, he said. Richter cited such giants as Occidental Petroleum and Pepsico, which have huge interests there. The SSSJ, said Richter, is asking that these corporations “not make profit over the backs of those who are oppressed.”

Richter also referred to a story in last week’s Wall Street Journal on the First Chicago Bank. The article, datelined London, stated that “this was the first time since 1979 that a U.S. bank has been publicly lead manager for syndicated credit to the USSR.”


Also speaking at yesterday’s service was Avital Shcharansky, wife of Soviet Prisoner of Conscience Anatoly Shcharansky, who left that evening for Helsinki, Finland, to attend the commemoration ceremonies of the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki accords. The Final Act, or “third basket” of the accords, speaks of guarantees of human rights, including the right to emigrate, and the preservation of human culture and human contacts. In 1975, the U.S. and Soviet Union were among 35 signatories to the accords.

Avital Shcharansky, who was in the U.S. to speak to members of Congress and the Reagan Administration on the eve of the conclave, will try to speak in Helsinki with Secretary of State George Shultz as well as Foreign Ministers of other nations on behalf of her husband and all Soviet Jewish refuseniks. It is also believed that she will try to speak to newly-appointed Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, who recently succeeded Andrei Gromyko in that post. The ceremonies begin tomorrow.

Shcharansky said she plans to demonstrate in Helsinki, to bring attention to “the case of the 400,000 Jews being ‘held’ in the USSR,” referring to those Jews who have already applied for exit visas and are still waiting.


Weiss, addressing the approximately 400 persons gathered for the service, said, “There is an attempt by well-meaning Jews to weaken the Jackson-Vanik Amendment … those who like to throw candy to the Soviet Union … I issue a warning towards those who are involved in negotiations … that they dare not do so.”

The Amendment to the 1974 Foreign Trade Act pegs emigration from Communist nations to their status as Most Favored Nation (MFN) for trade agreements and large government loans.

“Until the Soviets are true to their obligation to human rights, when 400,000 Jews are free and Anatoly is in Jerusalem, then we can talk trade,” said Weiss. “Don’t talk,” he continued. “Scream, shout. “Giving in on the Jackson-Vanik Amendment without the assurance of quid pro quo “would be absolute bankruptcy,” he declared. Also addressing the group, which included men in talleisim and tfillin reading from the Torah and chanting psalms and lamentations, was Israel Fridman, who had been in Moscow during Shcharansky’s trial.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund