JERUSALEM (Feb. 20)
Although many Jews are fearful and feel intimidated, there have been no reports of physical violence against Jews in the Soviet Union, according to members of a United Jewish Appeal delegation that just arrived here from Moscow.
That was the case at least up to a week ago, the UJA leaders reported.
On Feb. 13, while the UJA group was in the Soviet Union, the Moscow newspaper Trud reported that Jewish apartments in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov were broken into and that about 20 Jews there were beaten. But the Trud report has not been independently confirmed.
Marvin Lender, national chairman-elect of the UJA, told Israeli and foreign journalists here Tuesday that his delegation got much of its information about the state of Soviet Jews from the Va’ad, the recently established umbrella organization representing more than 200 Soviet Jewish communities and organizations from the Baltic to Siberia.
Lender reported that Va’ad representatives informed the visiting Americans at meetings in Riga and Moscow that “although there have been no incidents of physical violence against Soviet Jews as yet, there are regular and frequent intimidation attempts against Jews known to be waiting for an exit visa or ticket to Israel.”
Lender said he himself felt intimidated when the UJA group, touring the old Jewish ghetto in Riga, noticed it was being followed by two men in a car.
“Although no physical violence actually took place, we certainly felt very intimidated,” he said.
He said local Jews told them of several similar incidents which “created nervousness and fear among the Jews,” though no one was physically assaulted.
A SOVIET REBUFF TO ARABS?
The UJA delegation raised the matter with Soviet government officials and was assured they would do everything in their power to prevent attacks on Jews, Lender said.
He said the purpose of the UJA mission was to observe firsthand the emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union and their resettlement in Israel.
Lender is chairman of Operation Exodus, a special UJA campaign aimed at raising $420 million over the next three years to help Israel absorb Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union.
Morton Kornreich, the outgoing UJA national chairman, said he and other ranking UJA officials met in Moscow with Soviet authorities, with U.S. Embassy officials and with the Israeli consular mission in the Soviet capital.
The question of Soviet Jews settling in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was raised briefly at a meeting with Dr. Yuri Reshetov, head of the Foreign Ministry’s human rights department.
According to delegation members, Reshetov told them that “the new Soviet Union is not about to be pressured by anyone.”
That was seen as a rebuff to Arab delegations recently in Moscow to protest the possible settlement of Soviet Jews in the territories.
But Reshetov informed the UJA group that the issue is one of the reasons the Soviet government has delayed approval of an agreement for direct flights between Moscow and Tel Aviv.