NEW YORK (Feb. 14)
World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman and the organization’s secretary-general, Israel Singer, met Monday with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss issues of concern to the Jewish community.
The one-hour conference with the Soviet minister dwelt on all issues affecting Soviet Jews and also focused on the situation in the Middle East and the developing Soviet-Israeli relations, Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director, said in a telephone call from Moscow.
But despite the hoopla and dedication to the advances of Jewish life in Moscow, disturbing reports coming from the Soviet Union tell of repression of Jews in other cities and the activities of violent anti-Semitic groups.
The WJC leaders were in Moscow for the opening Sunday of the Solomon Mikhoels Cultural Center, plans for which began with their meeting with the Soviet foreign minister and other senior Soviet officials last May.
A famous vestige of the old Yiddish State Theater was clearly apparent in the entry hall. Steinberg described as “overwhelming” the legendary theatrical scrim which Marc Chagall designed in the 1920s.
Shevardnadze is slated to visit the Middle East later this month, although he is not scheduled to go to Israel.
But the WJC reported that another Soviet official, Radomir Bogdanov, has been invited to Israel and would be the highest-ranking Soviet official to do so.
Bogdanov is the deputy director of the Institute of U.S.-Canadian Affairs, a body of considerable influence.
Meanwhile, a Jew in the Ukrainian city of Chernigov, who teaches Hebrew and collects documentation on the Nazi killing of Jews, was harassed by KGB officials, according to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry.
The Student Struggle released the text of a complaint it received from Semyon Gurevich, addressed to the head of the KGB.
Gurevich wrote that he was questioned at the district OVIR emigration office about his trips to Moscow, “during which I showed an interest in Jewish culture, history and religion.”
He said he was asked about trips by other Jews. who are collecting material about the Nazis’ killing of Jews, and that he was asked to report on them.
Gurevich wrote that a KGB official, without a search warrant, confiscated cassettes with Jewish songs and Hebrew lessons, Jewish textbooks, his personal diary, notebooks, prison release certificate, photos of Jewish graves and plaster figures in the form of Jewish symbols.
He said he was “forced to bring to the KGB the mold for the figures” and was accused of “committing a crime against my homeland.”
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry reported that violent thugs belonging to the anti-Semitic group Pamyat recently disrupted a meeting in Moscow at which Vitaly Korotich, editor of the popular weekly Ogonyok, was being nominated as a people’s deputy of the USSR.
Ogonyok published eyewitness reports of the meeting at the Pravda Cultural Institutc, at which Pamyat thugs screamed “Kill the Jews,” assaulted women and engaged in hand-to-hand fighting with the meeting’s organizers.
Soviet militiamen made no attempt to intervene, according to the report.