NEW YORK (Nov. 13)
A top official of a Soviet propaganda organ long critical of the Jewish emigration movement has repudiated his group’s work. But a Jewish New York City councilman is nevertheless under fire for welcoming him at a reception here.
Councilman Noach Dear on Sunday strongly defended his decision to host a reception for a visiting Soviet delegation that included Samuil Zivs, co-chairman of the Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public.
In past visits to the United States, Zivs has been shunned by Jewish groups because of his support of previous Kremlin policies considered to violate the rights of Soviet Jews.
The reception, which took place Saturday night at the Park Avenue Atrium in Manhattan, included a visiting Soviet delegation of five, as well as three representatives of the Soviet Mission to the United Nations and Soviet Embassy in Washington.
Zivs, who was asked to renounce the Anti-Zionist Committee, did so publicly at the reception and by telephone to Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Hoenlein was asked by Soviet Jewry movement leaders to intercede in an 11th-hour endeavor either to have Zivs renounce the committee or return to the Soviet Union.
Hoenlein told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Sunday that Zivs said he would personally be the “gravedigger of the Anti-Zionist Committee.”
‘SAID IT WAS A MISTAKE’
“He said it was mistake, that these were different times,” Hoenlein said. This was repeated by a guest at the reception, who said Zivs said flatly Saturday night that creating the committee “was a mistake in the first place.”
The purpose of the reception was the discussion of Jewish cemeteries in the Soviet Union. Discussion focused on free access to the cemeteries and burial sites of revered rabbis, and the erection or maintenance of nearby mikvehs to ensure halachic observance of ritual cleansing when visiting a grave.
The reception was cosponsored by Albert Reichmann, an Orthodox Jewish businessman from Toronto who owns the Atrium building.
According to sources close to Reichmann, who supports the Soviet Jewry movement, he felt very uncomfortable about Zivs’ presence after Soviet Jewry activists presented Dear with an ultimatum that Zivs either renounce the Anti-Zionist Committee or return to the Soviet Union.
Activists in several area Soviet Jewry groups declined to speak about the reception, citing a desire not to show division in the Jewish community.
But on Thursday and Friday, many of these same activists objected to Zivs’ inclusion in the delegation, and criticized Dear for having unilaterally chosen to host the delegation without consulting other interested parties.
Dear, however, brushed aside the criticism as part and parcel of the infighting and competitiveness that has long characterized the Soviet Jewry movement. He replied that he had indeed consulted with some Soviet Jewry leaders and said it was impossible to talk with all of them.