Congressional Wives Recount New Emigration Barriers for Soviet Jews
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Congressional Wives Recount New Emigration Barriers for Soviet Jews

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The second generation of Soviet Jews seeking to emigrate are facing new obstacles, members of the Congressional Wives for Soviets Jews (CWSJ), who recently returned from a trip to the Soviet Union, said Tuesday. Young Soviet Jews applying to emigrate must now provide an affidavit signed by their parents stating that they owe no one in the family money. The emigration requirement has created conflicts for those parents who plan to remain in the Soviet Union.

Four members of the CWSJ, Dolores Beilenson of California, Joanne Kemp of New York, Wren Wirth of Colorado and Teresa Heinz of Pennsylvania, along with Irma Gertler and Aileen Cooper of B’nai B’rith Women, traveled to the Soviet Union last month to meet with newly formed women’s refusenik groups.

They were joined later by other CWSJ members in Vienna for the Helsinki Review Conference, where they discussed the issue of emigration with Soviet officials.

The CWSJ members said many Jews are being denied visas because they Know secrets vital to state security. This loophole has been used to deny visas to practically all men who serve in the army under mandatory conscription, even, in one instance, one who worked on a swimming pool.

The Soviet emigration procedure “is such an ambiguous process that it’s close to being meaningless,” commented Anne Bingaman of New Mexico.


But the Soviet policy of glasnost (openness) enabled the women to meet for the first time with a high-ranking Soviet official — Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnyk, assistant to Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.

Heinz said that Bessmertnyk spoke to the women for two hours and confessed that he “wouldn’t deny that some (refusenik) cases have been kept unsolved for good reasons.”

The Deputy Foreign Minister, who said Jews have played important roles in Soviet history, blamed the emigration delays on bureaucratic problems and said they are trying to improve the matter with new legislation.

Bessmertnyk also announced a new Soviet law that would enable the Foreign Minister to intervene in emigration cases.

But Heinz noted that Vladimir Gluckov, head of the Humanitarian Cooperation and Cultural Affairs Department of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, asked CWSJ members in Vienna, “Why should we let the (Soviet) Jews out if they supply cannon fodder to our Arab friends?”

The women also met with refusenik Ida Nudel, who was permitted to travel from her Moldavia apartment to Moscow to meet the group. “It was like seeing one of your heroines alive. She’s a very courageous woman,” said Beilenson.

The CWSJ was started in 1978 by Helen Jackson of Washington. It includes nearly half of the Congressional wives.

“The pressure on the Soviet Union has made a lot of difference,” said Bingaman, who added that they still have a very long way to go to address the problem of Soviet Jews. “What happens, she said, “will depend on them, but it will also depend on us as well.”

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