Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Jewish Leaders from U.S. and Abroad Meet Reagan on Soviet Jewry Issue

September 10, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Seven Jewish leaders from the United States, Israel and other countries stressed to President Reagan today that while Jews want Reagan’s summit conference with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in November to be successful, that will depend on the Soviets living up to their agreements on human rights for Jews and others in the USSR.

“If the Soviet Union cannot be trusted to keep its word on a matter of humanity such as human rights on which their national security is not at stake, can we trust the Soviet Union to keep its word with respect to an arms agreement or matters affecting their national security,” Morris Abram, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, said to reporters after the 15-minute White House meeting.

Abram said that Reagan assured the group of his “dedication” to human rights concerns and his “deep interest” in obtaining increased emigration and other rights for Jews. He told the group that “we can rest assured it will be a matter to be discussed” at the Geneva summit.

The visit was held as part of the meeting of the International Council of the World Conference on Soviet Jewry in which delegates from 25 countries participated yesterday and today at the B’nai B’rith International headquarters here. Also meeting with Reagan were:

Leon Dulzin, chairman of the World Conference on Soviet Jewry; Gerald Kraft, president of B’nai B’rith International; Isi Leibler, president of the Board of Deputies of Australian Jews; Claude Kelman, chairman of the French Council for Soviet Jewry; Gregorio Faigon, president of the Argentine Jewish community; and Jerry Goodman, executive director of the NCSJ.


“If the Soviet Union seriously wants disarmament and detente the easiest way they can accomplish a climate in which to achieve this is by living up to their agreement (in the Helsinki Accords) on which the ink is not really dry,” Abram declared.

He stressed that while “we do not ask that there be any formal linkage” between any agreement with the Soviet Union on arms or anything else and the plight of Soviet Jewry, there is an “unavoidable linkage arising and deriving from the fact that any agreement with the Soviet Union must be based on the credibility of the Soviet plighted word.”

Abram pointed out that while it may be difficult to verify Soviet violations of the SALT II agreement, “there is no doubt that they are in flagrant violation of their undertakings under the Helsinki Accords. Only II Jews left the Soviet Union last August, the smallest number of Jews to leave that country in the past 12 years.

As examples of other violations, Abram said the Soviets are arresting Hebrew teachers at the rate of one a month since the beginning of the year and that the persecution of Jews is increasing, with refuseniks “increasingly harassed, arrested, imprisoned.” He said this situation has worsened since Gorbachev came to power.

Abram said that Jews are “delighted” that there will be a summit conference since Reagan will be able to raise these issues with Gorbachev. “We hope these conversations will be successful,” he said. “We hope the Soviet Union will change its posture and attitude. We want peace, we want freedom, we want detente.” But Abram stressed that “we feel the question of credibility and trust is in Soviet hands and so far that record isn’t good.”

Abram noted that Secretary of State George Shuliz has raised the issue of Soviet Jewry at every meeting with Soviet officials on all levels.

Earlier, speaking to the World Conference, Allan Gotlieb, the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S., said his government follows the some policy. Gotlieb said he rejected the views of those who wanted the Western nations to abandon the Helsinki Accords because he believes the agreement gives the West the “right to demand” of the Soviet Union why human rights are being violated.


Delegates to the World Conference took time out of their meeting this afternoon to join in an International Solidarity Vigil for Soviet Jews outside the Soviet Embassy.

“We are here in an act of solidarity with this great Jewish community of Washington, in an act of solidarity with Soviet Jewry, with all the Jews throughout the world and with all the nations in the world now engaged in a great struggle, “Dulzin told some 60 demonstrators at the vigil. “But we believe that justice will be accomplished for our brethren in Soviet Russia, ” he said.

Coordinated by the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, a 15-minute vigil for Soviet Jews has been held daily opposite the Russian Embassy for the past 14 years.

In addition to Dulzin, the rally was addressed by Helene Karpa, president of the JCC, Judge Nelson Diaz, of Philadelphia and Norwegian Rabbi Michael Melchior. Melchior urged the new Soviet regime to “show that we can trust them when they sign international agreements.”

No attempt was made by the representatives at the demonstration to gain admission to the Embassy.

Rep. Dante Fascell (D. Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the conference earlier in the day that the condition for Jews in the USSR “are deplorable and getting worse. ” He saidd he was pessimistic about any improvements from the new regime and didn’t expect “any miracles” from them.

Recommended from JTA