Some 800 Jewish Students Brief Lawmakers on Plight of Soviet Jews
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Some 800 Jewish Students Brief Lawmakers on Plight of Soviet Jews

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Presidential aspirant Sen. Gary Hart (D. Colo.) urged more than 800 Jewish college students from around the country lobbying on behalf of Soviet Jewry to “make your voices heard” for all persons denied freedom throughout the world. The students were here last week to brief their members of Congress on the worsening plight of Soviet Jewry and to offer concrete ways to help.

The effort was coordinated nationally by the Student Coalition for Soviet Jewry of Brandeis University and co-sponsored by the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations, with assistance from the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry. It was linked with an International Student Solidarity Day for Soviet Jewry on 43 other campuses in the U.S. and activities in Canada, England, Israel and South Africa.

Hart, who served as honorary chairman of this year’s gathering, declared that “one of the most important causes, confronting not only the U.S. but mankind is freedom in the Soviet Union, freedom for all people there, and particularly the liberation of Soviet Jews.” He called upon the students to expand their concern to other human rights issues as well.


Katherine Porter, who with her husband, John Porter (R. III.) had recently visited Jewish activists in the USSR, characterized refuseniks there as “internal refugees.” Describing the refuseniks’ “haunted looks,” she said that “we are their only hope.” She declared that a “public outcry by students is the only thing that will make changes happen.”

Paula Dobriansky of the National Security Council asserted that the Administration accords the highest priorities to the issues of Soviet Jewish emigration and their right to learn their culture and national language. These matters, she said, are “a major focus” of U.S. policy to the USSR. The White House is “unsatisfied” with the current level of emigration and “displeased with the harassment and arrest of refuseniks and dissidents.

Hugh Simon of the State Department’s Bureau of Humanitarian Affairs called Soviet Jews “a community under attack. The Jews have become a pariah community.” As an example, he cited the quota system for Jews in Russian universities, with the effect that Moscow State University now admits no Jews.

Ray Smith of the Soviet Desk of the State Department said there are “few reasons for optimism” for early Soviet changes in policy on human rights. Consequently, he went on, “it is essential to make the Soviet government realize that America will not stop pressing for change until they do” and that better relations are linked to freer emigration.

Sen. Carl Levin (D. Mich.) urged his constituents to write letters to President Reagan asking why America is sending wheat to the Soviet Union “at the time when we are unable to obtain concessions on human rights.”

“We should never sit down with the Soviets without raising the emigration and human rights issue,” he declared. “We ought to win some concessions on human rights in return for trade benefits. If we don’t (during these negotiations), then we never will.”


The student effort in Washington was the first of a series of worldwide demonstrations designed to let Soviet Jews and the Soviet government know that those Jews who wish to emigrate or practice their religion have not been forgotten. The demonstrations will reach a climax on March 15 with the opening of the three-day World Conference on Soviet Jewry in Jerusalem.

Theodore Mann, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) said that some 1000 delegates from 30 countries, including nearly 500 American Jewish leaders, are expected to participate the meeting in Jerusalem.

The conference is a continuation of world meetings that were held in Brussels in 1971 and 1976 under the auspices of national Soviet Jewry groups in more than 20 countries and three international Jewish organizations; the World Jewish Congress, World Zionist Organization and B’nai B’rith International. Mann added that the American organizational sponsors of the third world gathering are the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the NCSJ

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