O’connor Says He Will Ask Reagan to Raise Issue of Soviet Jewry at Summit Meeting with Gorbachev
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O’connor Says He Will Ask Reagan to Raise Issue of Soviet Jewry at Summit Meeting with Gorbachev

John Cardinal O’ Connor told Conservative rabbis here that he will ask President Reagan to raise the issue of Soviet Jewish emigration and religious rights when he meets with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva next month. O’Connor said he was meeting Reagan at a dinner at the United Nations tomorrow evening.

Speaking at an all-day conference of social concern sponsored by the Rabbinical Assembly, the international organization of 1,200 Conservative rabbis, O’Connor told the 250 assembled spiritual leaders: “The story of Jewish and Christian suffering in the Soviet Union must be told to every man, woman and child. We cannot be rebuffed in this mission to educate everyone regarding this deprivation of human rights.”

He acknowledged that Jewish suffering in the Soviet Union has reached serious proportions.

O’Connor agreed to the plea of the Conservative rabbis at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America that, on the eve of the summit meeting November 18, he will ask every Catholic member of the New York Diocese to light a candle for world peace, for the release of the 32 Soviet Jewish prisoners of Conscience, and that every Jew and Christian in the Soviet Union be permitted to worship and study without harassment.


Leonid Feldman, a former Soviet refusenik and now a Seminary rabbinical student, sharply criticized both Jews and Christians for their silence in mounting a sufficiently strong campaign in the United States against the religious and cultural deprivation practiced by Soviet authorities against Catholics, Jews and Protestants.

“This is a human rights problem that should concern every American — we cannot become people of indifference to this issue,” he said. “I learned as a child to hate God, and even my three-year-old nephew was taught in his school to hate Jews.”

Feldman further emphasized the need to increase the protests, saying, “Gorbachev thinks only that he is God, and in the Soviet Union, they reject any thought of God.”

“It is imperative that the religious community of the world use the Reagan-Gorbachev summit as a time for prayer and action for an end of the subjugation of Jewish life in the Soviet Union,” said Rabbi Allan Meyerowitz, chairman of the Soviet Jewry Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly.

Meyerowitz presented O’Connor with a Prisoner of Conscience bracelet for Yosef Berenstein, now serving three years in Siberia for trying to practice religious Judaism in the USSR.

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