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Special Interview Former Refusenik Says He Harbors Little Hard Feelings Toward the USSR

January 10, 1986
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Mark Nashpitz says he cannot explain why after nearly 15 years he was suddenly granted permission to emigrate from the Soviet Union to Israel. But despite the years of harassment and difficult times, including five years in internal exile, he says he harbors little hard feelings toward the Soviet Union or its people.

“I’m not anti-Soviet,” he asserted in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at the offices of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. “It’s just not my country. We wanted out of the Soviet Union. They can have their problems; they’re not my problems.”

Nashpitz, 37, along with his wife Ludmilla and their five-year-old son Benyamin, arrived in Israel last October after having first applied for an exit visa to Israel in January, 1970. He was denied exit because he was a “relative of an illegal emigrant.”

Nashpitz’s father, Chaim, defected while on a mission with a delegation to Denmark some 30 years ago, when Mark was eight years old. Nashpitz who now lives in Tel Aviv, has since been reunited with his parents, Ita and Chaim of Haifa. Ita Nashpitz was allowed to leave the Soviet Union in 1974.


Nonetheless, though he can’t explain the sudden change of heart on the part of the Soviets–he was given 48 hours to leave the USSR once informed of the decision–he does give much credit to persistent efforts on the part of activists in the U.S., Congress and, in particular, the Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity.

Mark, a dentist specializing in mouth diseases, lost his practice in the Soviet Union and is now studying in Jerusalem to sharpen his skills and learn the use of new instruments and technology. His visit to the U.S., his first trip to the West, included receiving an award presented to him by Alpha Omega at its annual conference in Boston last month.

Nashpitz was also accorded a Capitol Hill reception last week held by Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R.N.Y.). Gilman said that since he was first elected to Congress in 1972, he has taken an active role in seeking permission for Nashpitz to emigrate.

“Mark’s presence in our midst today,” Gilman told the audience in Washington, “is concrete proof that the issue of human rights for Soviet Jews is not really an ideological exercise engaged in only at the policy level.”

Gilman pointed out that over 400,000 Soviet Jews have begun the application process leave the Soviet Union. They are, he said, “real flesh and blood individuals, not merely names on placards or photographs on demonstration posters.”


In the interview yesterday, Nashpitz said he does not feel the Soviet people are anti-Semitic. “The Russian people, I think, are not anti-Semitic, “he said. The government, he added, “has good propaganda” which, he noted, delivers almost a daily dosage of attacks on Israel and Zionism.

He said that Soviet citizens don’t know or understand the concept of Zionism. With this, he pointed to a program that will be aired over the Public Broadcasting System throughout the United States. The documentary, “The Jews of Moscow,” scheduled to be broadcast next week, provides a fairly accurate view of the life of refuseniks in the Soviet Union, he said.


Nashpitz, along with a host of invited guests and reporters, previewed the documentary Tuesday evening at WNET-TV, the PBS station in New York. The 60-minute documentary, narrated by Theodore Bikel, was first produced for Danish television by Samuel Rachlin, a Danish TV correspondent who just completed a seven-year assignment in Moscow.

The program, while depicting efforts of Jews in Moscow to maintain their religious traditions and cultural roots, also focuses on the work of the Soviet Anti-Zionist Committee, composed of a handful of Jews. The Committee claims there was collusion between the Nazis and Zionists and that all those Jews wishing to emigrate have already done so.

At the conclusion of the film, there is a brief interview with, among others, Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, who recently returned from a business trip to the Soviet Union. It has been widely reported that Bronfman has been acting as an intermediary between Israel and the Soviets for an airlift of Jews from the Soviet Union.

Responding to this report, Bronfman tells the interviewer, Hedrick Smith, a former Moscow Bureau Chief of The New York Times, that “I have no indication of it and I think I certainly would have had that been the indication.” He also termed the reports as “made out of cloth.”

In addition, Bronfman also said that although the Soviets publicly reject the idea of linking human rights to increased trade with the U.S., “privately I think there’s definite linkage and I think that one can deal with this on a private level.”

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