MOSCOW (Sep. 29)
The plight of long-term Jewish refuseniks may be resolved soon, according to reports emanating from an international human rights conference here.
According to official sources at the conference, which is being held under the auspices of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Soviets have agreed to set up a five-member commission of experts to review the cases of Jews who have been refused permission to emigrate for more than five years.
Soviet Jewish activist Roman Gefter reportedly has been asked to serve on the commission.
News of the Soviet decision was reported by Shoshana Cardin, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and a public member of the U.S. delegation to the CSCE meeting. She said she had learned of the development from sources in the various delegations to the conference.
If the reports are correct, they would be an indication that the Soviet government now wants to resolve the issue of Jewish emigration once and for all.
The Soviet legislature passed an emigration reform law in May. But Soviet Jewish advocacy groups in the West expressed concern that the bill contained a number of loopholes that would allow Soviet authorities to continue denying emigration visas to Jews for such arbitrary reasons as access to state secrets or financial responsibility to “poor relatives.”
More than 200 Soviet Jewish families have been denied permission to emigrate, according to recent estimates. But the number of long-term cases is considerably smaller.
CARDIN ‘GRATIFIED’ BY REPORT
Cardin said that while Western delegates to the CSCE meeting have been pressing the Soviet government to resolve the long-term cases prior to the conference’s end on Oct. 4, Soviet officials say it is unlikely that case reviews can be completed by that date.
She also expressed concern about reports that the Soviet government claims that there are only 10 unresolved long-term cases. Soviet Jewry activists say the number of remaining long-term cases is higher.
“We will ask the Soviet authorities to check very carefully whether the roster of long-term refuseniks is complete,” Cardin said.
But she stressed that the National Conference is “gratified at this indication of the potential resolution of these cases, a step which likely has been made possible by the failure of the August coup attempt” in Moscow.
Meanwhile, Soviet citizens got a rare opportunity to sample chazzanut, or Jewish cantorial singing, during a 40th day commemoration ceremony Sunday for the three young Russians killed fighting off Soviet tanks during the failed coup of Aug. 19 to 21.
Members of the JDC-Moscow Synagogue Choir, founded by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, wore kipot as they sang a prayer from the Yom Kippur service for the martyrs, one of whom, Ilya Krichevsky, was Jewish.