Mandel Says Issue of Soviet Jewish Emigration is a Human, Not Political Issue
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Mandel Says Issue of Soviet Jewish Emigration is a Human, Not Political Issue

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Gov. Marvin Mandel of Maryland, who was one of eight governors who visited the Soviet Union in May, said today that it must be impressed upon the Soviet government that the issue of Jewish emigration is a human not a political problem and that the American people support the right of Soviet Jews to leave the USSR. He said that President Ford and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger should make the Soviet leaders aware that all the people of this country are concerned about the problem.

Speaking at a press conference sponsored by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry at the offices of the American Jewish Congress, Mandel said that the governors, who were on an official State Department-sponsored exchange visit met with Soviet President Nikolai V. Podgorny and other Soviet officials and were treated with extreme courtesy except when the emigration issue was raised. He noted that the Soviets appeared to be much more sensitive on this than they were when he visited the USSR three years ago.

The Russians said that there was no problem and that the issue was being raised by outside forces, Mandel said. He said they also declared it was an internal issue. Mandel reported that the governors in turn tried to point out that this was not a political problem, but one of human beings who wished to join their families.

The Maryland governor said that in every hotel lobby there were leaflets and brochures attacking the emigration issue. He said one had a report from a Pravda correspondent in New York who claimed to have visited Russian immigrants in the Brighton Beach section of New York who were unhappy with their life in the United States.


Mandel stressed that the emigration issue is a major problem for the Soviets. “They have a great problem explaining to the people of the country why anyone wants to leave when they spend 365 days a year telling how good it is,” he said. He added that the Russians also fear that if Jews are allowed to leave, Ukrainians and other national groups will seek exit visas.

Mandel said he talked with a woman who has been refused an exit visa for herself and her two small children even though her husband is now a violinist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He said he also met with activists such as Valery Rubin, Vladimir Slepak and Alexander Lerner. They feel that the Jackson-Vanik Amendment has helped them because the harassment no longer takes a violent form since the Russians know the world is watching, Mandel said. He said he was told that about 15 percent of Soviet Jews would emigrate if they could. This would be about 450,000 persons.

Mandel said the Soviet Jews told him the best form of pressure on the USSR would be for educators and scientists to speak out, both in the United States and especially when they are in the Soviet Union.


Stanley H. Lowell, chairman of the NCSJ, who introduced Mandel, said while the governors in their May visit and a group of U.S. Senators who are in the USSR now, have expressed concern about the plight of Soviet Jews, “regrettably, the President and Secretary of State appeared to have placed the issue of freedom for Soviet Jews on the back burner.'” He said this has been interpreted by the USSR “to intensify the repression of Soviet Jewry.”

Lowell called upon Ford “to use the weight and prestige of his office in behalf of Soviet Jewish Prisoners of Conscience, so that they may be allowed to emigrate, and further that in the best American tradition he call on the leaders of the Soviet government to put an end to all discrimination and repression of Soviet Jews.” He also urged Congress “to undertake a legislative inquiry of Soviet violation of human rights.”

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