PHOENIX (Feb. 19)
While “no obstacles exist anymore” for Soviet Jews who want to emigrate, there are inducements for the great majority of Jews in the Soviet Union to stay, a Soviet diplomat told an audience of American Jewish community leaders here Sunday.
Oleg Derkovsky, first secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, addressed more than 500 delegates attending the annual plenary session of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council.
He shared the platform with Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), who said the United States is close to acting on a waiver of trade sanctions contained in the 1975 Jackson-Vanik Amendment, “because of the Soviet Union’s dramatic relaxation of emigration laws.”
“Assuming the 10 remaining refuseniks are allowed to leave, I believe we should consider a one-year waiver,” said the senator, who chairs the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors compliance with the Helsinki human rights accords.
Derkovsky expressed hope that changes in Soviet law regarding religious and cultural expression would encourage Soviet Jews to fulfill their aspirations in the Soviet Union.
He said draft legislation that would codify the recent relaxation in emigration policy and the shifts regarding cultural and religious expression are designed to benefit not only Jews but all Soviet citizens.
“Our principle is to create the best possibilities for those who want to stay in the USSR and develop their culture, religious heritage and language,” he said.
He pointed out that there are no longer obstacles to studying Hebrew in the Soviet Union.
“We hope those who have left the Soviet Union will be encouraged to come back,” Derkovsky added.