WASHINGTON (Dec. 28)
The Soviet ambassador to Washington on Wednesday hailed recent Soviet-Israeli cooperation and said he foresees an improvement in relations between Moscow and world Jewry.
Ambassador Yuri Dubinin made the remarks at a Soviet Embassy ceremony in which officials of the American Jewish World Service presented him a check for $50,000 to help relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Soviet Armenia.
The Boston-based group also gave $30,000 to the Armenian primate, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, which is earmarked for helping Armenia’s estimated 40,000 to 50,000 amputees, many below the age of 18.
Dubinin said he was “deeply moved” by the gift. He also said the Soviet people are appreciative of the aid the Israeli government has provided in efforts to rescue victims of the disaster.
The ambassador praised “cooperation between the Soviet Union and Israel” over the recent hijacking of an Aeroflot airliner, which landed safely at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport.
Asked if the group’s gift contribution help improve ties between Jews and the Soviet Union, Dubinin responded: “Of course, of course. And this is one of the manifestations of one of the expressions.”
He said that “much more deep, much more important” than the money AJWS provided was the Jewish community’s “expression of human deeds.”
In response, Lawrence Phillips, chairman of the AJWS board, said, “We are obviously elated and thrilled with the expression that the ambassador just made that there might be some tangential benefits” for Jews.
But Phillips said his group had presented the check purely for philanthropic motivations.
Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, director of inter religious affairs at the American Jewish Committee and a member of the AJWS board, told Dubinin that Soviet Jewry “is very much a matter of concern to us, but we see that as a separate issue” from humanitarian relief.
Tanenbaum also delivered a ringing endorsement of “glasnost,” the new spirit of openness under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
He said recent increases in Soviet Jewish emigration are “confirmation of the spirit of glasnost and perestroika (restructuring) and the genuine effort to create a freer, open society for Soviet citizens, including Soviet Jews.”
He attributed the policy change to a “general international atmosphere contributing to more humane policies.”
Several other Jewish organizations have made contributions to the Armenia relief effort. The first was B’nai B’rith International, which delivered a $1,500 check to the Soviet Embassy two days after the Dec. 7 earthquake.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has raised more than $250,000 for Armenian relief efforts so far.
But it is holding onto the money for longer-term rebuilding programs. After a 1985 earthquake in Mexico City, JDC held its contributions for awhile before earmarking its funds to a non-sectarian junior high school there.