WASHINGTON (May. 2)
Fifty American Jewish leaders will attempt to focus world attention on the plight of Soviet Jewry by greeting President Reagan in Helsinki when he stops off en route to his summit meeting in Moscow with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Jewish leaders, who will be in the Finnish capital May 25 to May 29, will hold a silent vigil in the center of Helsinki on Saturday, May 28. They will also hold a Shabbat eve service at the Helsinki synagogue Friday night, according to Morris Abram, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ), who will head the delegation.
Abram announced the plans at a press conference Monday, which was a prelude for a "Summit Action Day for Soviet Jews" on Tuesday in which Jewish leaders from across the country will be briefed by Secretary of State George Shultz and others at the State Department and on Capitol Hill.
The group will also include two former prisoners of conscience now living in Israel, Yosef Begun and Lev Elbert. Begun will also participate Tuesday in a seminar on religion in the Soviet Union, conducted by Reagan at the White House.
Abram noted that it was particularly symbolic that the American Jewish leaders will demonstrate in Helsinki since "it was in Helsinki that in 1975 the predicate was laid for the rights that are being asserted on behalf of Soviet Jewry."
That was the Helsinki Accords, which "provides that the Soviet Union recognizes international obligations to respect the right of everyone to leave any country including his own and to return to his own country," Abram said.
Abram stressed that the message the Jewish leaders want to give at Helsinki is that "the campaign to free Soviet Jewry so that they can emigrate, those that wish to do so, and to permit those who wish to remain to live as Jews without any limitations and without any discrimination of a public nature against them will continue, and we will never abate and we will never rest until we are successful."
Begun stressed that the struggle to allow Jews in the Soviet Union to have their rights as a national minority is as important as to press for emigration, since only 10 percent of the Jews in the USSR have emigrated.
He said that while "glasnost" has allowed the Soviet people more freedom to develop their cultural life "this does not extend to Jewish rights. There is no real changes in the situation of Soviet Jews as a national minority."