NEW YORK (Oct. 6)
Secretary of State George Shultz cautioned here Wednesday night that the recent loosening of Soviet emigration restrictions on Jews “can change,” and urged Jewish leaders to “never let up in our efforts to help people leave.”
Shultz was being honored by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society for his work on behalf of human rights, and Jewish emigration in particular.
The secretary addressed about 270 people at a dinner at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, at which he received the HIAS 1988 Liberty Award for his “determined pursuit of freedom of emigration for Soviet Jews.”
Shultz said he accepted the award with a greater feeling of appreciation than when he was honored in 1984 by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.
“I didn’t feel good about receiving that award,” he said, “because our efforts up to that time had not been very successful. But I feel a lot better now, We have seen results in human terms.
“Still, we must never let up in our efforts to help people leave if they wish, or to live the kind of life they want to lead where they are.
“We have to keep working on it. It can change. So we must stay with it, and keep working,” he said.
The award was presented by Ben Zion Leuchter, president of HIAS, the international immigrant aid society of the Jewish people, founded in 1881.
Leuchter praised Shultz’s perseverance on behalf of Soviet Jews and all persons seeking human rights.
Speaking of Jewish “historic memory,” Leuchter speculated “how different world history would have been, how different Jewish history would have been, if this good and great man had been secretary of state from 1937 to 1945.”
Jacqueline Levine, HIAS vice president, who chaired the evening, thanked Shultz “for the Moscow seder” in which he met with many refuseniks. “We are indeed fortunate to have such a remarkable and valiant leader.”
Shultz, after hugging Levine, responded that it was he who should thank the Jews for the opportunity to know the courageous refuseniks. “It’s not so much that we help them. They help us fulfill ourselves as human beings,” Shultz said.
He repeated again that his entire career as secretary of state was capped by the telephone call from Ida Nudel, who having just arrived in Israel, called and told him, “I’m home.”
Scanning the room, Shultz spoke warmly of Jewish leaders who had become his advisers and friends in their joint efforts for Soviet Jewry.
He especially singled out Morris Abram, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, whom he called “my rabbi… He’s been a good person for us to know.”
Concern over the well-being of Soviet Jews lent itself to the awarding of HIAS’s other annual presentation, the Zvi Hirsch Masliansky Award, given this year to the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York for its leadership efforts on behalf of refugees and immigrants.
The award was presented by Harold Friedman, HIAS president emeritus, to Peggy Tishman, UJA-Federation president.
Tishman used the occasion of the award to announce a special $1 million loan program to Soviet Jews in Israel for housing, job training and placement.
Also honored was theatrical producer Joseph Papp, whose Public Theater in lower Manhattan was home to HIAS from 1921-65.
He recalled his immigrant father, Shmuel Papirovsky, speaking frequently of “something called HIAS.”