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Task of Soviet Jewry Groups in U.S. Outlined by Expert

May 14, 1982
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A Soviet Jewish emigre who is now a U.S. academic expert on the Soviet Union, said yesterday that Soviet Jewry groups in the U.S. must continuously let senior officials in the White House and the State Department know of their strong commitment in support of Soviet Jewish emigration.

Dimitri Simes, co-director of the Soviet and East European Research Program at Johns Hopkins University, explained that the U.S. cannot necessarily demand of the Soviet Union concessions in return for agreements on trade or disarmament. But he said, senior U.S. officials can stress to Soviet leaders that no agreements will be possible unless such concessions are made, because of domestic pressures on the Administration.

What has to be stressed to the Soviets is “not your indignation but how strong is your commitment,” Simes told a Conference on Soviet Jewry and U.S. –Soviet Relations sponsored by the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. More than 100 persons attended the day-long conference held on Capital Hill.

Simes also said he supports “quiet diplomacy,” but to be effective, quiet diplomacy should have public pressure behind it which he called “quiet diplomacy with teeth.” Simes suggested that the UCSJ approach businessmen who deal with the Soviet Union, such as officials of the Pepsi Cola Co; to persuade them to urge the Soviets that it would be in their interests to increase emigration.

In addition, Simes noted that during this period of almost no emigration, telephone calls and personal visits by UCSJ members and other Americans to Soviet Jewish activists in the USSR are “crucial” to assure the activists that they have not been abandoned. Simes spoke on a panel on “The Search for Solutions to the Soviet Jewry Situation.”


Sister Ann Gillen, executive director of the National Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry, stressed the need to increase the participation of Christians in the Soviet Jewry movement, including having a large Christian presence at the next Brussels Conference on Soviet Jewry to be held in Paris in October.

She also suggested opening bridges to the peace movement in the U.S. to convince them of the need to urge the Soviets to live up to their commitments and to stress justice as well as peace.

Rep. William Brodhead (D. Mich.) who hosted the conference, said Soviet Jews seem to be a “bargaining chip” which the Soviet Union is using to gain concessions from the U.S. But he said in this period of “bad relations” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, there is no emigration and supporters of the cause must use the time to “educate ourselves,” Congress and the American people on the situation.

Rep. Jack Kemp (R. NY) said that speaking up for Soviet Jews now is “analogous” to aiding the Jews under Nazi Germany, not when World War II had already begun but in 1933 when the “pogroms” first began. He promised to deliver to President Reagan a resolution adopted by the UCSJ members at the conference which called on the President to demand “strict reciprocity” in he form of emigration in return for any trade or other agreements negotiated with the Soviet Union.

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