Charles Vanik, a former U.S. congressman who co-authored a historic law designed to pressure the former Soviet Union into allowing freer emigration of Jews and other dissidents, died Thursday. He was 94 and living in Jupiter, Fla.
Vanik, an Ohio Democrat, wrote the Jackson-Vanik amendment to a 1974 trade law with Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a Washington Democrat.
Supporters say the legislation eventually spurred huge increases in emigration of Soviet Jews. It requires the United States to assess the human rights records of countries with non-market economies before deciding whether to grant them special trade privileges.
Mark Levin, director of NCSJ, which advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic states and Eurasia, recalled the many opportunities he had to work with Vanik.
“It was a privilege to have known and worked with an elected official truly committed to the advancement of human rights and Jewish concerns,” Levin said. “There are few who could match his compassion and heart.”
While the measure’s intent was to allow Soviet Jews to emigrate, its reach extended to many other countries, including China and Vietnam.
Critics have called for its elimination, arguing that it is an outdated obstacle to trade and harmed U.S. economic and diplomatic ties abroad.