JERUSALEM (Dec. 20)
The head of the World Zionist Organization has been allowed, for the first time in history, to preach aliyah directly to Soviet Jews in Moscow.
And according to Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the WZO and Jewish Agency Executives, he received a rousing response.
Dinitz delivered the keynote address Tuesday afternoon at the founding conference of the Congress of Jewish Organizations and Communities of the USSR, the first event of its kind since the Bolshevik revolution.
More than 700 Jews, representing 75 communities all over the Soviet Union, gathered in Moscow’s Cinema Center to attend the five-day conference, which began Monday.
Their purpose was to establish an independent confederation of Soviet Jewish organizations that would develop a consensus on the priorities and objectives of their constituents.
Dinitz reported by telephone Wednesday that aliyah was a focal issue of the proceedings, and that the atmosphere surrounding it was very favorable.
He said he and other Israelis were approached by hundreds of delegates who asked specific questions about immigration and conditions in Israel.
Dinitz began his speech in Hebrew, saying he brought the delegates and all the Jews of the Soviet Union “birkat shalom m’Yerushalayim” (a blessing of peace from Jerusalem).
He used the occasion to thank the Soviet authorities for facilitating the participation of top Jewish Agency and Jewish Diaspora leaders at the conference.
He also noted that there were still hundreds of refuseniks whose problems in gaining permission to emigrate had to be resolved.
NO ISRAELI IMMIGRATION QUOTA
“Israel has no quota on immigration,” Dinitz told the gathering, a reminder that the United States has placed a ceiling of 50,000 on the number of refugees it will admit annually from the Soviet Union, including non-Jews.
Dinitz promised the congress that five additional shlichim, or emissaries, from the WZO would be sent soon to five Soviet cities to encourage and assist Jews contemplating aliyah.
He said the current backlog in applications for required invitations to come to Israel would be cleared up soon and that thereafter, the process would take only two months.
Dinitz also pledged that the Jewish Agency and the government would see to it that not one immigrant from the Soviet Union would be without a home or without a job.
Reports from Diaspora Jewish observers said some delegates insisted that the congress emphasize aliyah, while others maintained that equal importance should be given to conditions for Jews who choose to remain in the Soviet Union.
A suggestion was made that the U.S. government be asked to increase the number of refugee slots and that other countries should be asked to admit Soviet Jews.
A non-Jewish human rights activist representing the Russian People’s Front apologized for the anti-Semitic demonstrations outside the cinema hall Monday by members of the right-wing chauvinist group Pamyat, who physically harassed some of the delegates.
The speaker said neither Pamyat nor another anti-Semitic splinter group called Motherland would have any success in the upcoming elections.
Pamyat also staged a demonstration Wednesday. But according to reports from Moscow, it was non-violent.
There was also a demonstration by several dozen masked Palestinian students in Moscow, who tried to persuade delegates to the conference not to support the State of Israel. They were dispersed by police.
One of the most moving moments of the day, Dinitz reported, was a concert given Wednesday evening at Moscow’s Tanganka Theater by Jewish artists and musicians from all over the Soviet Union.
When a string quartet from the Latvian city of Riga struck up the sentimental notes of the Israeli national anthem “Hatikvah,” hundreds of Soviet Jews in attendance rose to join in.