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Shultz Urged to Take a Firm Stand on the Growing Plight of Soviet Jews

January 4, 1985
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American Jewish leaders active on behalf of Soviet Jewry have asked Secretary of State George Shultz “to take a firm stand “on the growing plight of Soviet Jews, especially those who seek exit visas, at his meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in Geneva January 7-8.

“Positive movement on this question must be a key component of any improvement in Soviet-American relations, and it cannot be divorced from other matters of mutual concern, ” Herbert Kronish, chairman of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry (GNYCSJ), said at a press conference today at the Roosevelt Hotel here. The press conference was jointly sponsored by the GNYCSJ and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ).

“We have urged the Secretary of State,” kronish disclosed, ” to be flexible in his search for an approach which will work, and to underscore for Mr. Gromyko the importance with which all Americans regard the plight of Soviet Jews.”


NCSJ chairman Morris Abram said, in reply to a question, that Shultz promised to raise the issue of Soviet Jews in all future meetings with Soviet leaders. He said the promise was made in a meeting with Jewish leaders in Washington last year.

He conceded, however, that no specific promise to raise the plight of Soviet Jews during the upcoming meeting with Gromyko was given, but it was assumed that the commitment of the Administration to raise the issue will apply to this meeting as well.

Abram and Kronish called on the Reagan Administration to discuss with Soviet leaders the release of all Soviet Jewish Prisoners of Conscience and cancel those trials which have not yet occurred; grant exit visas to those Jews who wish to emigrate; and allow all Jews to live freely and without discrimination in the Soviet Union.

Charging that Soviet Jews are facing currently a “critical situation, ” Kronish and Abram announced that the number of Jews allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union in 1984 was the lowest total for a single year since the landmark Leningrad Trials of 1970-71. They noted that Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union has been steadily declining since 1979, when 51,320 Jews were permitted to leave.

A status report on the situation of Soviet Jews in 1984, jointly prepared by the two organizations, charged and documented increased anti-Semitism and persecution of Soviet Jews. The report said:

“The most notable and serious development affecting Soviet Jewry in 1984 was the concentrated and systematic Soviet attack on Hebrew teachers. Since mid-July, continuing harassment against Jewish Hebrew teachers and cultural activists culminated in a wave of searches, threats and arrest.

“The campaign suggests a blatant attempt to crush the determination of a younger generation of Jewish activists. Three of those arrested were sentenced to prison and labor camps on trumped-up charges. Their real ‘crime’ was their active struggle to secure the right to emigrate to Israel or to live as Jews, without discrimination, in the USSR.”


In outlining a plan of action for 1985, the two agencies said they would embark on a new program designed to sensitize corporations engaged in business with the Soviet Union to the Soviet Jewry issue, as well as to involve other groups, including interfaith and community leaders.

Abram noted the formation of a Congressional Coalition for Soviet Jewry, a caucus to promote the emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union through cooperation with the U.S. Administration. According to Abram, the Coalition will “send the appropriate message to the Soviets that human rights issues are basic to U.S. -USSR relations.”

Kronish announced plans for a “Think Tank” to be chaired by Robert Mckay, president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He said “The Think Tank will bring together distinguished members of our community to explore new strategies for easing the plight of Soviet Jews and re-opening the gates. “In 1984, 896 Soviet Jews were granted exit visas. Jacqueline Levine, chairperson of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, who also took part in the press conference, said that she has recently returned from a visit to the Soviet Union, where she met many Jewish activists. She said she brought back with her “a message of hope and determination from Soviet Jews.”

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