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Mann: Rescue of Soviet Jews is Pre-eminent Task of U.S. Jews

November 17, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

“The rescue of Soviet Jewry is the pre-eminent task of this generation of American Jews,” Theodore Mann, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, told the more than 2,500 representatives from the United States and Canada attending the 50th General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations.

In the near future, Mann said he expects relations between the U. S. and the Soviet Union to improve, particularly with respect to trade, and here is the chance for American Jews to seek assurance that the Reagan Administration will link the issue of Soviet Jewish emigration to any negotiations.

Whether or not American Jews are able to take advantage of this opportunity depends on two factors, Mann observed. “We have got to be certain that the Administration is attuned to our issue and will give it prominence in its negotiations with the Soviet Union,” he said, and “the American Jewish community must be seen by the Soviet Union as an important and influential part of the American electorate.”

Continuing, Mann said that “Our political power depends upon a perception in Washington that we are united on a certain issue” and that this is an issue “of overriding concern to the community.” Representatives and Senators, as well as the President, must “believe that millions of Americans really care about the safety of these two or three million Jews left in the Soviet Union,” Mann said. He noted that emigration dropped last month to a decade low and that “there have been more arrests in the last five months than in the last five years.”


Jacqueline Levine of Metropolitan New Jersey, outlined four recommendations for action by American Jews: Jews and non-Jews must be mobilized for one million signatures on petitions to be presented to Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev concerning the plight of Soviet Jews; “emergency conferences” need to be held to publicize the desperate situation of Jews in the USSR and it is imperative that there be a record attendance at the Women’s Plea for Soviet Jewry, planned for next month in communities around the country; it is important that there be visits to Soviet Jews by well-informed American Jewish leaders, along with regular letters and telephone calls to boost the morale of refuseniks; and there must be political action.

“The Soviet Union and the United States are locked in a political contest, and in that contest the Soviet Jews are hostages,” Ms. Levine said. “Moscow is our target, while Washington is our instrument.” She concluded by stating that “We must raise the level of our voices,” along with “the frequency and forces of our activities” to help secure renewed emigration from the Soviet Union.

Echoing the need for American Jewish action on behalf of Soviet Jewry, Dr. Yuri Stern, a former Soviet Jewish activist who emigrated to Israel last April with his wife and two children, said that “without this support, we are lost.” He noted that Soviet Jews are not only subjected to discrimination, but to assimilation. Along with drastically slowing emigration,

the Soviet authorities also are suppressing all those who try in any way to live as Jews, Stern said.

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