WASHINGTON (Apr. 22)
More than 100 legislators, as well as Congressional spouses and leaders of religious, labor and human rights organizations, took part in an all-day “roll call” Tuesday of Jews seeking to emigrate from the Soviet Union.
The rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building here was bedecked with a photographic exhibit of refuseniks and their families, as well as some of the very few remaining synagogues in the Soviet Union, providing a poignant backdrop for the ceremony which was launched by House Speaker Thomas (Tip) O’Neill (D. Mass.).
“Tomorrow night, Jews throughout the world will gather to recite the traditional phrase ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ as they celebrate Passover, the Festival of freedom,” O’Neill said in a statement introducing the 10,000-name roll call.
“For Jewish refuseniks in the Soviet Union these words take on a significant meaning. As we call out the names of the 10,000 refuseniks and the number of years they have waited to emigrate, we hope to express our solidarity with those struggling to be free.”
The ceremony was sponsored by Congressional Wives for Soviet Jews and supported by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) and the Congressional Coalition for Soviet Jews. The NCSJ has recently launched a stepped-up campaign to bring the Soviet Jewry issue to public attention in advance of the still unscheduled second Summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Meanwhile, plans for an official Congressional ceremony to honor Anatoly Shcharansky were laid down Monday by O’Neill and Senate Majority leader Robert Dole (R. Kans.). The two legislators agreed to co-sponsor a joint resolution authorizing a House-Senate ceremony — generally reserved for heads of state — to be held when Shcharansky visits here next month from Israel. Shcharansky is expected to meet with President Reagan during his visit to the Capitol.