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U.S. Jewish Leaders Exhibit Concern for Russian Brethren

The American Jewish leaders who came to Russia last week said they are monitoring the deteriorating situation here carefully.

“When a country is in trouble, Jews are often blamed, especially in this country,” World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman, who led the group, told JTA.

Bronfman said he and his colleagues “wanted to make sure that everybody here understands that we’re watching very carefully how Russians treat” the Jewish community.

At a meeting with the group in Moscow, President Clinton echoed the delegation’s concern about the possible ramifications the current instability in Russia may have for the country’s Jewish community.

“He understands the dangers of the Jewish community,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and one of the participants in the discussion.

In addition to receiving a first-hand look at the chaos that is today’s Russia, the leaders also used the time to delve into other issues.

The World Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Restitution Organizations held an extended meeting in the Russian capital. The meeting, which was also attended by representatives of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dealt mainly with the restitution of claims dating from the Holocaust era.

Russian participants used the opportunity to ensure the support of the group in their struggle for the return of hundreds of Torah scrolls confiscated by the Soviet authorities that are currently housed in the country’s museums, archives and libraries.

American Jewish leaders also held a series of meetings with Russian officials on the Middle East peace process and the proliferation of missile technology and weapons of mass destruction in Iran and Iraq.

After the meetings which the delegation had with top Russian officials, including acting prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Malcolm Hoenlein said Moscow is making “some serious efforts” to stop the sale of missile technology transfer to Iran

But Hoenlein, who met with Russian officials in February on the matter, said Russia still needed to do more to halt these sales.

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