NEW YORK (Jan. 25)
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) has initiated PRIORITY POC, an intensive effort to free Soviet Jewish Prisoners of Conscience, it was announced by NCSJ chairman Morris Abram.
The project will be chaired by Constance Smukler, of Philadelphia, a long-time activist on behalf of Soviet Jewry, and a vice chairperson of the NCSJ.
The NCSJ will work nationwide, through local Soviet Jewry committees, to create a network of PRIORITY POC chairpeople. They, in turn, will create individualized community structures in order to:
Maintain regular communication by telephone, telegram and mail, with POC families in the Soviet Union and Israel, to gather information on the condition of the POC’s, and the most effective ways to serve their interests.
disseminate this information to political figures, business people, artists and prominent public persons planning trips to the Soviet Union.
create a Calendar of Responsibility, containing names of POC’s and special dates (wedding anniversary, birthday, first application to OVIR, arrest, trial, halfway point in sentence) to be used for publicity when making appeals on the behalf of individual POC’s.
In addition, the NCSJ plans to meet with POC families during its Israel Seminar in March, and will work closely with the PRIORITY POC network, Abram said.
Smukler said she hopes that the actions of PRIORITY POC will serve as a deterrent to the incarceration of additional Jews in the Soviet Union, and a message of solidarity with POC families in the Soviet Union and Israel. “They must feel our presence in the camps,” she stated.
Referring to a comment by former POC Natan Shcharansky concerning the fate of POC’s Smukler noted that Shcharansky and Anatoly Marchenko were both imprisoned at Chistopol. She stated that Shcharansky lived, and was freed, because he had “a world of silence.”
In creating PRIORITY POC, Abram stated, “The NCSJ wants the Prisoners of Conscience and their families to know that their welfare and ultimate freedom are of utmost concern to us. We want the Kremlin to know that we will not cease our efforts until all POC’s are freed and allowed to emigrate, and those who have been released after serving their terms are also permitted to joint their friends and relatives in Israel.”