NEW YORK (Feb. 28)
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze this week promised a delegation of World Jewish Congress leaders visiting Moscow that he would shortly issue a public statement denouncing anti-Semitism and all forms of incitement to hatred.
Shevardnadze made a similar promise last month to New York City Councilman Noach Dear.
Shevardnadze and other high-level Soviet officials met Tuesday with Edgar Bronfman, president of the WJC; Israel Singer, the group’s secretary-general; Elan Steinberg, its executive director; and Isi Leibler, a WJC vice president from Melbourne, Australia, who was instrumental in establishing the Solomon Mikhoels Cultural Center last year.
Steinberg said in a telephone interview that the center is renting out several places in Moscow and teaching Hebrew to 450 students every evening.
The delegation, which arrived in Moscow from Israel, brought with it an exhibit on Israel by French photographer Frederic Brenner. The photographic exhibit will travel to several cities.
Also on display in Moscow now is what is believed to be the first comprehensive exhibit of Jewish books, religion and culture publicly shown in the Soviet Union.
The exhibit, which opened last week at the National Library for Foreign Literature, displays some 300 books in Russian and Hebrew, including prayer books, dictionaries and reference books.
HAVEL WILL VISIT ISRAEL
The flowering of Jewish culture, a product of glasnost, comes amid unsettling threats against Jews. Soviet officials assured the WJC leaders that administrative and legislative measures will be adopted as part of the government’s effort against individuals and groups engaged in anti-Semitic activity.
Other officials present Tuesday were Alexander Yakovlev, a member of the Politburo and secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee, and Yuri Christorachnov, chairman of the Council on Religous Affairs.
The WJC delegation, carrying messages from the Israeli government, pressed the Soviets to allow emigrating Jews to leave on direct flights for Israel. The delegation was unable to comment on the substance of the talks until it reports back to the Israelis.
The group also discussed the cases of remaining refuseniks, particularly that of Vladimir and Karmela Raiz. The WJC group was “informed at the highest level that the case would immediately be reviewed and favorably resolved,” Steinberg reported.
The WJC leaders left Moscow on Wednesday for Prague, where they attended a state dinner hosted by President Vaclav Havel. The dinner was held in Kolodeje Palace, in whose basement the dissident playwright was once held prisoner.
The parties discussed the subject of Jewish property that the Nazis confiscated, much of which is part of the Czech Jewish exhibit “A Precious Legacy,” soon to open in Israel.
Havel will visit Israel on April 26, in connection with the showing of “A Precious Legacy” at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Steinberg reported in a telephone call from Prague.