Menu JTA Search

Two Jewish Leaders Express Confidence Reagan Will Deal with Soviet Jewry Issue when He Meets with Go

Two leaders of the National Conference of Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) said that they were “confident” that President Reagan will deal with the issue of Soviet Jewry when he meets with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva November 19 and 20 and stressed that it was up to Reagan to decide how he does it.

Gerald Kraft, an NCSJ vice president and president of B’nai B’rith International, and Jerry Goodman, the NCSJ’s executive director, said that they have received both public and private pledges from Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz that the issue will be dealt with “seriously.” Kraft noted that the President personally considers the issue important.

“We look to the President and his Administration as the ones who will carry the message in whatever means the President thinks as best,” Goodman said here last Friday. “He is essentially in this regard our messenger.”

Reagan, in an interview with wire service reporters last Wednesday, said that human rights will be discussed at the Geneva summit. “But I don’t think that it is profitable to put things of this kind out in public where any change in policy would be viewed as succumbing to another power,” the President said.

“This is a tactic which we understand and which we approve of and we know it has worked in the past in negotiations with the Soviets,” Kraft said.

LITTLE PRE-SUMMIT MEDIA ATTENTION TO HUMAN RIGHTS

However, Kraft noted that there has been little pre-summit attention to human rights in the media partially because the President wants to make “headway instead of headlines” and because he said some in the media do not want to ask tough questions of the Soviets for fear of losing access to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials at the summit.

For this reason, Kraft said the Jewish community in the United States and abroad, supported by many non-Jews, is seeking to bring the issue of Soviet Jewry to public attention both to support Reagan’s efforts and to let Gorbachev know of the concern of world public opinion.

There are a series of educational programs in the U.S. and abroad and numerous demonstrations are planned throughout the United States. A major event will be a rally in Lafayette Park on November 17 which will include a march past the White House to the Soviet Embassy.

In addition, Kraft said synagogues and churches are being asked to hold prayer services for Soviet Jews on November 18 and he and other Soviet Jewish leaders of the World Conference on Soviet Jewry will be in Geneva during the summit. There will be a day of solidarity with Soviet Jews throughout the world on November 19.

DISCOUNT RUMORS OF LARGE EMIGRATION

Both Kraft and Goodman discounted as rumors reports that the Soviet Union might allow large numbers of Jews to emigrate before the summit. Goodman noted one figure mentioned was 15,000 which he said is the estimated numbers of refuseniks.

Kraft said he was in Europe when the rumors began to appear in the European press and he tried to confirm them and found they were false. “When people arrive, however they arrive … that’s the only means test we have,” Goodman said. He said only 124 Jews left the USSR in October and he did not expect the figures to be any better this month or in December.

Both leaders stressed that Jews want the summit to succeed. Goodman said the organized Jewish community was “not anti-Soviet, but pro-Soviet Jewry.”

Kraft said there was no request that there be “linkage” between human rights and an arms agreement. “If the Soviet Union is to be trusted on an issue as vital to the peace of the world as arms control, then they are going to have to prove that they can be trusted as a signatory to human rights agreements,” he said.

NEXT STORY