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Higher Jewish Emigration Levels May Continue, Shultz Indicates

May 4, 1988
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Secretary of State George Shultz told 250 Jews attending Summit Action Day here Tuesday that the emigration of 1,088 Jews in April is a trend that “very well may continue.”

Similarly, Richard Schifter, assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, told the crowd that “it looks as if (visa) applications could be processed now fairly fast.” He warned, though, that many Soviet Jews could still be deterred from applying to emigrate based on traditional Soviet rejection of such requests.

Shultz praised participants in Summit Action Day, which was organized by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. “The dedication you have gives all of us in America the chance to see very vividly what are the values that our country stands for,” he said.

He termed his meetings in Moscow last month with Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze “the most searching set of discussions that we have ever had” on human rights.

He recalled how he met in Jerusalem recently with former refuseniks who he had seen in the Soviet Union and felt a “sense of accomplishment.” But he said he could not help but feel, “I am here, but what about my friends who aren’t here?”


Earlier in the day, participants in the National Conference mission were told that First Lady Nancy Reagan may meet with Soviet Jews in Moscow during President Reagan’s fourth summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, scheduled for May 29 to June 3. The development was announced by Teresa Heinz, co-chairperson of the Congressional Wives for Soviet Jewry.

Heinz, the wife of Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.), said Nancy Reagan has agreed to meet her later this week after the first lady listens to a tape of a conversation Mrs. Heinz had with a group of refusenik women known as Jewish Women Against Refusal.

Myrna Shinbaum, associate NCSJ executive director, said the group is expanding contacts with chief executive officers and stockholders of U.S. companies interested in closer economic ties with the Soviet Union.

U.S. business leaders were encouraged by their unprecedented trip to the Soviet Union last month with Secretary of Commerce William Verity. A few hundred corporate giants participated in meetings with Soviet officials.

Shinbaum said the NCSJ’s position “has never been to boycott” U.S. companies that do business in the Soviet Union. “We are for business,” she said.

The National Conference supported the trip after Morris Abram, its chairman, and Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, gained assurances from Verity that the trip did not mark an end to the U.S. commitment to the Jackson-Vanik Amendment.

That amendment denies Communist countries special trade benefits that most U.S. trading partners enjoy, unless the president asserts that those countries are conducting satisfactory emigration practices.


Other Soviet Jewry groups, including the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews and the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, opposed the increased contacts in light of continued Soviet restrictions on emigration, and current U.S. private bank loans totalling billions of dollars annually.

Also briefing the NCSJ Tuesday were Reps. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who spoke about his recent trip to the Soviet Union; Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who chairs the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is monitoring the current human rights talks in Geneva; and Rep. Gus Yatron (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations.

Hoyer said the Geneva talks, which represent the third review of the 1975 Helsinki Accords, could be completed by the 1975 Helsinki Accords, could be completed by the summer, but have yet to produce any proposed communiques. He said the United States must demand “no more, no less” than compliance with the 1975 treaty, which requires the 35 nations that signed it to meet basic human rights standards.

Wyden said Soviet human rights officials told him they are working on new policy guidelines on emigration, that could be completed in “months.”

He said the officials told him that those who want to leave are viewed as “traitors.” Wyden said he was also told that emigration figures are hampered by lack of high-level Soviet-Israeli relations and by Arab objections that more Jewish emigration means more manpower for Israel’s armed forces.

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