Dozens of legislators, joined by relatives of refuseniks and the father of a Hebrew teacher facing trial this week in the Soviet Union, participated in an all-day fast Thursday on behalf of those denied the right to emigrate from Russia.
The Congressional prayer and fast vigil, sponsored this year by Rep. Bob Mrazek (D. NY) in conjunction with the Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry, stressed the theme of divided families. The issue, which was planned as this year’s theme some time ago, has been in the forefront of the news media this week, following the Soviet government’s announcement that 244 individuals represented in a U.S. list of divided family cases were being permitted to leave. Some fifty percent were said by the State Department to be Jewish.
But Rep. Tom Lantos (D. Calif.), speaking at the vigil on the steps of the Capitol, declared that “symbolic gestures will not suffice.” Human rights is not a symbolic issue, Lantos said, addressing himself to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Also speaking at the vigil were Vladimir Magarik, father of Alexei Magarik, a Hebrew teacher and refusenik whose trial on trumped-up drug possession charges has been scheduled to begin on Friday in Tbilisi, capital of the Georgian Republic.
“Tomorrow he will face a false trial on a false charge,” Magarik said of his son’s plight. He observed that “a kind of miracle” has taken place in the Soviet Union where, in spite of the authorities attempts to suppress the Hebrew language and Jewish life, “courageous Jewish men and women” are yearning to learn about and live the culture of their people.
Vladimir Magarik and Elena Fridman, sister of refusenik Ida Nudel, had been brought to Washington from Israel by the National Conference for Soviet Jewry.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.