WASHINGTON (May. 19)
Soviet Jewry groups from the United States will be out in force in Helsinki next week, to try and insure that the issue of Soviet Jewry and their right to emigrate from the USSR is not forgotten at the Moscow summit that begins May 29.
President Reagan will stop in the Finnish capital for several days before going to Moscow for his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews announced Wednesday that it has formed a coalition with the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry and the 35s, a London women’s campaign for Soviet Jewry, to go Helsinki May 25 under the banner “Helsinki Action to Free Soviet Jews.”
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry previously announced that 50 American Jewish leaders will be in Helsinki May 25 to May 29, where they will conduct a silent vigil in the center of the city May 28, and attend Friday night services at the Helsinki synagogue.
Pamela Cohen, the UCSJ’s president, said the coalition would hold news conferences, march to the Soviet Embassy, hold prayer vigils and a mock trial of “glasnost,” Gorbachev’s policy of openness, which Soviet Jewry activists charge does not apply to Jews.
“At a time when mutual trust and treaty verifications are uppermost in the minds of all Americans, high numbers of Jews annually crossing the Soviet border to freedom are the only true test that will verify the Soviets’ international human rights commitments,” Cohen said.
She said while the Reagan administration and Congress support Soviet Jews, some 400,000 Jews are still being kept from emigrating or the free practice of their religion and culture. “We desperately hope that this last summit of the Reagan administration will finally lead to opening the doors,” Cohen said.
Rabbi Avraham Weiss, chairman of the SSSJ, stressed the coalition’s activities in Helsinki will be peaceful, but will demonstrate that the Soviets have never lived up to their commitments under the Helsinki accords and other international agreements.
“We call upon the president to deliver a strong message that the Soviets will never receive the full economic benefits they so badly need until they respect their Helsinki and related human rights agreements, and until ‘glasnost’ is valid for Jews, as well,” Weiss said.