30,000 Jews and Non-jews Attend a Mass Rally for Soviet Jews
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30,000 Jews and Non-jews Attend a Mass Rally for Soviet Jews

Tens of thousands of of Parisian Jews and non-Jews marched through the streets Sunday and attended a mass rally in behalf of Soviet Jews.

The demonstration, four days in advance of the official visit to Paris by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, was organized by the Representative Council of Major French Jewish Organizations (CRIF) to urge that the issue of Soviet Jews be raised by President Francois Mitterrand at his meetings with Gorbachev. The Soviet leader is due here tomorrow for a four-day visit.

The two-hour march and rally drew members of the Parliament of Europe, leading French businessmen, popular entertainers and supporters and relatives of Jewish dissidents imprisoned in the USSR. Among the latter was Avital Shcharansky, wife of Anatoly Shcharansky who is serving a 13-year prison term on charges of spying.

Also marching was Simone Veil, former President of the Parliament of Europe, and French-Jewish performer Enrico Maccias. They carried banners calling for “freedom for Soviet Jews.”


Theo Klein, president of CRIF, urged Gorbachev to “free the tens of thousands of Jews who want to go to Israel. Let them live as proudly as they wish as Jews as you live proudly as Russians,” he said.

A CRIF spokesman said more than 30,000 people attended the rally. It was held prior to Gorbachev’s visit because the authorities have banned anti-Soviet demonstrations while the Soviet leader is here. The authorities said demonstrations are banned as a matter of policy during any “visits of chiefs of state and government” in order to ensure public safety.

Meanwhile, Klein and other Jewish leaders have been in contact with French officials pressing Mitterrand to urge Gorbachev to lift emigration restrictions Only a handful of Jews have been permitted to leave the USSR this year.

Mitterrand is believed sympathetic. Last year he invited Klein to accompany him on his official visit to Moscow as his personal guest. This was widely viewed as a strong expression of solidarity with Soviet Jews by the French President.

Officials here said he intends to voice his active concern for Russia’s Jews during his meetings with Gorbachev this week. They said he hoped to obtain a pledge that at least some of the restrictions will be lifted. “Such a gesture would be considered by the French Administration as a more telling gesture toward peace and understanding than abstract political pledges,” the officials said.

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