WASHINGTON (Jul. 31)
The State Department and the American Jewish community are not at odds over the issue of “freedom of choice” for Jews who emigrate from the Soviet Union, Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, stressed Friday.
“The entire organized American Jewish community believes in the principle of freedom of choice for Soviet Jews,” Abram said, after he and other Jewish leaders met with Secretary of State George Shultz.
But Abram, who is also chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, added that the “choice should be exercised in the Soviet Union.”
He explained that Soviet Jews who wish to emigrate to the United States should apply for visas at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, while those who want to go to Israel should apply at the Dutch Embassy, which handles diplomatic affairs for Israel in the Soviet Union.
The Jewish leaders were meeting with Shultz to discuss the most recent problem, that of the inability of the U.S. Embassy to process visas for Soviet citizens wishing to immigrate to the United States. The problem is a lack of funds budgeted for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
Abram and Ben Zion Leuchter, president of HIAS, said they hoped that Congress would clear up the problem. The House on Thursday approved a $24 million supplemental appropriation for refugees, which includes $6 million for Soviet emigrants.
The Senate has yet to vote on the measure.
Leuchter said that there are only 150 Jews affected by the shortage of funds, and that the problem has mainly hurt about 3,000 Armenians.
Leuchter said 60 to 80 Soviet Jews have left for the United States each month this year on visas received in Moscow.
Also participating in the meeting with Shultz were Seymour Reich, president of B’nai B’rith International; Robert Lifton, president of the American Jewish Congress; Mark Levin, the NCSJ’s Washington representative; and Andrew Glazer, an NCSJ executive committee member.