NEW YORK (Dec. 21)
Professor Alexander Lerner of Moscow, an internationally known scientist and one of the longest-term refuseniks left in the Soviet Union, was told Monday he could emigrate.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency was notified of the news by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Long Island Committee for Soviet Jewry, who spoke to Lerner by telephone.
Lerner received a phone call Monday from the OVIR emigration bureau in Moscow saying he had permission to leave for Israel. Lerner’s son, Vladimir, and Vladimir’s wife and child also were told they could leave.
Lerner, 74, known for his work in the field of cybernetics, has been waiting since 1971 to go to Israel. He has been refused permission to emigrate several times on “state secrecy” grounds, despite the fact that his work supervisor testified to the KGB that he was not privy to state secrets.
Earlier this year, Lerner was among a list of refuseniks the Soviets said would never be allowed to leave.
The author of 168 scientific works, Lerner was charged with “espionage and treason” in an open letter published in Izvestia on March 4, 1977. He replied, “I was never connected in any form with any secret service of any foreign state.”
Prior to applying to emigrate, Lerner had traveled to the West to participate in scientific symposiums. Later, after he was refused an exit visa, the international scientific community carried on a vigorous campaign on his behalf.
DAUGHTER IN ISRAEL
Lerner is expected to join his daughter, Sonya Lerner Levin, who emigrated in 1973, in Rehovot, where for years he has been promised a research position at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Lerner had two daughters, ages 3 and 5, who were killed with their grandparents at Babi Yar in 1941, when the Jews were rounded up. His wife, Judith, died in 1981.
The soft-spoken scientist is regarded by many as the senior spokesman of the Moscow Soviet Jewry movement and his comparatively lavish apartment (a testament to his one-time membership in the Soviet Academy of Sciences) is a popular stopover for members of Congress and foreign leaders visiting the Soviet Union.
During the 1970s, Lerner was active in organizing professional seminars for Soviet Jewish scientists who had lost their jobs when they applied to emigrate.
In recent years, he has devoted much of his time to painting and some of his works have been sold in Israel. A portrait of Natan Sharansky, which Lerner painted when he was known to the world as a prisoner of Zion named Anatoly, hangs on the walls of Lerner’s study.
Speaking by phone Monday to Lynn Singer, executive director of the Long Island Council, Lerner said he was preparing to leave and hoped to be in Israel within a month. He asked that “special thanks be given to everyone who worked on my behalf. I am looking forward to being in Israel and hope to come to the United States as quickly as possible to personally thank everyone,” he said excitedly.
On hearing of Lerner’s permission, National Conference Chairman Morris Abram said, “In finally granting the distinguished professor permission to join his daughter in Israel, the Soviet Union is merely living up to one of its human rights obligations under the Helsinki Accords and other international agreements.
“Let us hope that Soviet authorities will now also turn their attention to the many other ‘secrecy’ cases which must be resolved if the USSR is to be counted among the civilized nations of the world,” he said.