New Visa Policy Won’t Limit Freedom of Choice, Shultz Told

Israel’s decision to issue visas only to those Soviet Jews committed to making aliyah will not prevent Jews from immigrating to the United States and other countries, a delegation of U.S. Jewish leaders told Secretary of State George Shultz on Wednesday.

Morris Abram, who headed the delegation, said he explained to Shultz that under the new Israeli policy “freedom of choice will be exercised in the Soviet Union,” rather than in Vienna, where, up to now, the majority of Jews who have left the USSR with Israeli visas have opted to go to the United States.

Abram, who chairs the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, spoke to reporters at the State Department after meeting with Shultz.

The secretary of state “obviously believes in freedom of choice,” Abram said. “He did not indicate that he disagreed with the way we have argued for the choice to be exercised, nor did he say he approved.”

Abram said that the new policy, announced by the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday, simply means that Soviet Jews who receive an Israeli visa must go directly to Israel, via Romania. Jews who want to immigrate to the United States may now apply for visas directly from those countries.

“We take at face value the Soviet Union’s statements that all Jews who wish to go to the West can go to the West,” Abram said. He added that under the new policy, to which the Soviets have agreed, “nobody is going to have to go where they don’t wish to go.” He noted that in recent months, some 300 persons have immigrated directly to the United States.

MOST SHOULD GO TO ISRAEL

Abram said that while the American Jewish community believes in freedom of choice, it feels the majority of Jews leaving the Soviet Union should go to Israel, because there they will be “redeemed as Jews having been stripped of their traditions for 70 years.”

Abram added that the new Israeli policy, which the NCSJ welcomed, only puts into effect a system that would have existed if the Soviet Union had not broken diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967.

Myrna Shinbaum, the NCSJ’s director, said that Jews applying for exit vias to Israel or another country must still do so on the grounds of repatriation or family reunification. She said the Soviets have suspended for this year the requirement that the family member abroad be a first-degree relative: a parent, child or sibling.

The NCSJ wants unrestricted emigration for all Jews who want to leave, Shinbaum said. Abram said that emigration figures are “not up enough by a long shot.”

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said he urged Shultz to stress to the Soviet government the concern about an increase in anti-Semitism in the USSR.

Also participating in the meeting were Constance Smukler, NCSJ vice chairwoman; Jordan Goldman, an NCSJ executive committee member; Mark Levin, the NCSJ’s Washington representative; and Albert Chernin, executive vice chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council.

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