WASHINGTON (JTA) — A group that advocates for Jews in the former Soviet Union endorsed efforts to lift restrictions on Russia’s trade with the United States.
Former Soviet states are still subject to review under standards established by the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, which linked trade status to human rights, particularly among Jews. Jewish communities in those nations in recent years have lobbied for its rescission, and have garnered support in both parties.
"Russian Jewish life has flourished dramatically since the Soviet collapse in 1991," Mark Levin, who directs the NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, told a joint hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittees on Europe and Trade on Tuesday. "What has happened is nothing less than a historic rebirth of a people and their culture after decades of persecution."
Also testifying on behalf of removing the restrictions was Mark Talisman, who heads the Project Judaica Foundation, which seeks to preserve Jewish culture. Talisman helped draft the amendment as chief of staff to the late U.S. Rep. Charles Vanik (D-Ohio), who shepherded the law through the House.
Resistance to removing the restrictions comes from some in the business and human rights communities who say that Russia continues to maintain centralized controls over business and religious expression.