NEW YORK (Jul. 26)
A high-level Soviet government official paid an unprecedented call to a Soviet Jewry organization here Wednesday to talk about the problems of refuseniks.
Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Adamishin, whose responsibilities include international humanitarian affairs, discussed the Soviet Jewish emigration issue with Jewish leaders during a three-hour luncheon meeting at the New York headquarters of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.
Adamishin is in the United States for consultations with the State Department.
The conclave was described as constructive, frank, open and even remarkable.
It was a follow-up to a similar gathering in Moscow in May, at which leaders of the National Conference spoke with Yuri Reshetov, head of the Foreign Ministry’s department for international humanitarian cooperation and human rights.
“This was obviously another step in the dialogue that has been initiated,” Martin Wenick, executive director of the National Conference, said in a telephone interview.
“It was significant in the level of the individual who was involved and that it took place here,” said Wenick.
Another participant remarked on the openness of the talks.
‘A VERY FRANK DISCUSSION’
The very fact that it took place, with whom and where was significant,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “It was a very frank discussion,” he said.
“It’s clear that he places great significance on the role played by the Jewish community, not only in the area of Soviet Jewry but overall in U.S.-Soviet relations,” Hoenlein added.
Harvey Feldman, director of international relations for the American Jewish Committee, described the meeting as “fantastic.”
He said Adamishin was open to disagreements and expressed understanding about the Jews’ unusually hard plight in Soviet history.
The talks focused on the plight of Soviet Jews who have been refused permission to emigrate, the recent proliferation of grass-roots anti-Semitism and the need to rebuild the Soviet Jewish community.
Wenick said the Soviets had requested a meeting with leaders of the organized Jewish community and that arrangements for it were made through the State Department.
Richard Schifter, assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, was instrumental in the arrangements and was present at Wednesday’s meeting.
Other National Conference officials participating in the meeting were Shoshana Cardin, national chairwoman; Mark Levin, Washington office director; and Rabbi David Hill, secretary.
Other Jewish leaders present were Seymour Reich, president of B’nai B’rith International and chairman of the Conference of Presidents; Carmi Schwartz, executive vice president of the Council of Jewish Federations; Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; and Rafael Danziger, assistant director of American Jewish Congress.