NEW YORK (Jan. 10)
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry has agreed to re-examine its stance against improving U.S.-Soviet trade relations in light of recent positive changes taking place in the way the Soviets treat their Jewish population.
The decision to reassess its position was reached during a meeting Tuesday morning of the National Conference and 19 national organizations and constituent groups.
Mark Levin, director of the National Conference’s Washington office, said the decision was not to abrogate or even presently waive the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, which denies U.S. trade privileges to the Soviet Union until it makes substantial progress in increasing Jewish emigration.
But Levin said the conference is assessing positive changes in conditions for Soviet Jews, at a time when a new administration and new Congress are coming into office in Washington.
The conference released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying that it "and its constituent agencies, as a united community, are currently reviewing and assessing U.S.-Soviet trade policy in acknowledgment of positive steps towards improving the (cultural and religious) rights of the Soviet Jewry minority."
The announcement followed separate meetings key world Jewry leaders held earlier this week with representatives of the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S.-Soviet Trade and Economic Council.
MEETINGS WITH COMMERCE CHIEF
On Monday, the National Conference’s top leaders — Chairwoman Shoshana Cardin, Executive Director Myrna Shinbaum and Levin — met in Washington with C. William Verity, outgoing secretary of commerce.
Cardin described it as "a very cordial, amicable meeting in which he expressed his appreciation to the conference for assisting him when he needed information and advising us that it probably was time for us to take the initiative in certain areas."
Cardin said Verity "didn’t specify which areas."
She said he promised to alert incoming Commerce Secretary Richard Mosbacher on the "helpful role that we play."
"We are heading into recognition of the fact that there has been a sea change in the Soviet Union, that we have a responsibility to assess where we are and to reassess those actions and what has been promised," said Cardin.
"I don’t think that we are going to limit ourselves to numbers. I think it more important that we see sustained activity," she said.
Representatives of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews also met earlier this week with Verity, but were unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.
On Monday night, key players in the Soviet Jewry movement met in Edgar Bronfman’s Manhattan penthouse apartment with Wayne Andreas, chairman of the U.S.-Soviet Trade and Economic Council. Andreas is also chairman of Archer Daniel Midlands, an American firm that deals in export of wheat.
The meeting was convened to "clarify what the Jewish community wants in exchange for changes on our part on the question of trade policy with the Soviet Union," an informed source said.
Participating were Bronfman, who is president of the World Jewish Congress; Morris Abram, past chairman of the National Conference; Cardin; Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency Executive; Mendel Kaplan, chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors; and Seymour Reich, president of B’nai B’rith International and chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.