NEW YORK (Feb. 9)
Three New York area Congressmen, including Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R), today urged a continued commitment to the freedom of Soviet Jews despite the anticipated release this week of Soviet Jewish Prisoner of Conscience Anatoly Shcharansky.
The Washington lawmakers said that while they were clearly pleased with the imminent release of Shcharansky as part of an East-West prisoner exchange, this should not preclude further efforts toward a general easing of the plight of Jews in the Soviet Union.
Their remarks came on the heels of reports from Washington that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D. Mass.), who yesterday returned from a trip to the Soviet Union, announced that 25 Jews for whom he had interceded were being permitted to emigrate. The 25 are long-term refuseniks.
D’Amato, along with Reps. Robert Mrazek and Benjamin Gilman, both Republicans, were three of the 13 metropolitan area Congressmen who spoke to some 350 guests at the annual Congressional Breakfast sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, held at the UJA-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies building here.
At the breakfast meeting, House Majority leader Jim Wright of Texas was presented with the second annual Benjamin Rosenthal Congressional Leadership Award. Rosenthal died of cancer in 1983 after more than two decades in the House as a representative of Queens.
Gilman, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he hoped the release of Shcharansky would be more than a political gesture. He said, however, that “It is going to take the best of all of us to keep sounding off in loud and clear voices the importance of human rights.”
DISAGREES WITH QUIET DIPLOMACY POLICY
Mrazek told the breakfast meeting that he feared the Reagan Administration was taking what he described as a policy of quiet diplomacy on behalf of Soviet Jewry. He said he disagreed with this approach, adding, “We have to continue an active position on this issue and to continue the public outcry” for Soviet Jewry.
D’Amato, who is chairman of the Helsinki Congressional Commission on Human Rights, said that while he hoped Shcharansky would be released this week, the Jewish community and others need to renew their commitment to freedom for all Soviet Jews who seek to emigrate.
Kennedy, meanwhile, reported that the 25 Jews for whom he had interceded, have “in the words of the Soviets ‘been given favorable consideration consistent with Soviet laws.’” He said six of them were already in the West.
Among the Jews who have been permitted to emigrate as a result of Kennedy’s efforts after long periods of refusal are Lev Goldfarb and his family. Goldfarb first applied in 1975 and emigrated in November.
Others who are to get permission are Grigory and Isai Goldstein, two brothers who worked as physicists in Georgia and first applied in 1971. The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry today described the Goldsteins as being “at the very heartbeat of the emigration movement for many years.”
Kennedy said he had discussed the issue of emigration with Soviet officials, including Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. But, he said, “I wish I could say that his views were more flexible on the issue of Soviet emigration.” Kennedy obtained emigration visas in 18 other cases during a previous visit to the Soviet Union in 1978.