NEW YORK (May. 29)
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry was scheduled to adopt Thursday a statement advocating a quicker response to support relaxed trade restrictions with the Soviet Union in the case of “significant shifts” in Jewish emigration from that country. A formal announcement was scheduled for Friday.
The decision came amidst official reports that about half the 117 persons slated for emigration from the Soviet Union shortly are Jewish.
Executive Director Jerry Goodman said the NCSJ is in no way changing its policy which supports trade restrictions linked to Jewish emigration under the terms of the Jackson-Vanik amendment.
“There is no new policy,” Goodman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Maybe one could read into it a modification. On the contrary, it reaffirms that we are opposed to repealing Jackson-Vanik.”
NCSJ will support relaxing trade restrictions only if Jewish emigration increases significantly, continues to increase, and if obstacles to emigration, such as arbitrary arrests, are removed, Goodman asserted.
AT LEAST HALF ARE JEWS
The State Department announced Wednesday that about half of the 117 people on a list of those who will be permitted to join family members in America are Jews. The 117 are members of 36 divided families with some relatives already living in the U.S.
Glenn Richter of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ) here said he has not seen the list of names but received word that at least one Jewish family is a well known Lenigrad refusenik family.
Relatives of the family in the United States asked SSSJ not to release the family’s name. But Richter described one as a former Hebrew teacher and Jewish activist. He said the family is “Baal Tshoovah” or newly observant Jews.
One Soviet Jewry activist who saw the list said the names are not recognizable (well-known) refuseniks, Richter said.
CHESS CHAMPIONS TO LEAVE
The announcement that another prominent family of Jewish activists will be permitted to emigrate to Israel came at the same time the State Department released information on the 36 divided families.
Although the case is not connected to the 36 families, the Soviet Union has granted exist visas for Boris and Anna Gulko both former chess champions of the Soviet Union and their son David. The three are scheduled to leave for Vienna Friday.
The couple first requested exit visas in 1978 and staged demonstrations in downtown Moscow where they lived. The couple were promised exit visas several times, the day Anatoly Shcharansky left the Soviet Union. Richter said Soviet Jewry activists in the West rallied for years for the Gulkos’ release. No time-frame has been made public for the releases. “It may take months for them to get out — there may be some on the list who won’t get out, “Richter said.
In 1985, 1,140 Jews left the Soviet Union, according to SSSJ. In the first five months of 1986, 329 Jews left.
‘A SYMBOLIC GESTURE’
William Keyserling, Director of the Washington office of NCSJ, called the release of the 117 “a symbolic gesture” and said “the numbers remain dismally low on Jewish emigration.”
The State Department old NCSJ that “no visible Jewish activists were on the list.” Keyserling said the release does not signal a fundamental change in Soviet policy on Jewish emigration. Until such a fundamental change occurs, Keyserling said, NCSJ will not support relaxed trade restrictions.
Goodman told JTA “We have always been opposed to quotas, “We’re not waiting for 400,000 to get out but the process has to be big enough to allow a backlog to move,” he said. “If 2,000 or 5,000 a year come out, it’s not enough,” Goodman said. “But 40,000 or 50,000 that’s significant,” he said.
DOLE URGES REPEAL OF JACKSON-VANIK
The statement came partially as a response to Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole’s (R. Kans.) suggestion that Congress repeal Jackson-Vanik because Jews were not getting out of the Soviet Union.
“Dole suggested that if we waive the restrictions of Jackson-Vanik before the performance of the Russians maybe it would encourage the Russians to release Jews,” Goodman said.
NCSJ wanted to send a message to Congress and to businesses with interests in the Soviet Union that Jews are not ready to give up Jackson-Vanik, Goodman said.
A consensus for supporting the modification is developing within the NCSJ because people are concerned about not responding quickly enough to help Soviet Jews, Goodman said. In 1979, the Soviet Union released about 51,000 Jews but trade restrictions were not relaxed. “At that time, people suggested that Moscow should have been given a promise of a waiver for one year,” Goodman said.