The new era of warmer relations between the Soviet Union and world Jewry was in evidence here earlier this month at a meeting of the American Jewish Historical Society.
A high-ranking Soviet Embassy official delivered the keynote address and used the opportunity to praise the Jewish cultural revival under way in the Soviet Union.
The occasion was a May 9 tribute to World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman, who received the society’s Emma Lazarus Award for his humanitarian work on behalf of Soviet Jews.
The main speaker was Oleg Derkovsky, political counselor to the Soviet Embassy in Washington, who delivered his country’s congratulations to Bronfman.
Derkovsky read an address prepared by Yuri Dubinin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States. Dubinin had been scheduled to attend himself, but was called back to Moscow for the talks between U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.
“An organized Jewish community is reviving in the USSR,” Derkovsky told his audience.
“People are returning to the synagogues, celebrating the Jewish holidays. There are already 100 Jewish communities in the USSR. Yeshivas are opening. The Soviet Union will provide stipends,” the Soviet official said.
Derkovsky insisted that there are virtually no restrictions on Soviet Jews wishing to emigrate, except those few cases where the individual is privy to “state secrets.”
He also said his country is “being guided by a sense of urgency in the Middle East.
“The status quo is dangerous. The arms race in the Middle East is of great concern to us,” the Soviet diplomat said. “Our position on an Arab-Isracli settlement is based on the conviction that there can be no military solution. We want to search for a mutually acceptable” outcome.
Derkovsky stressed that the Soviet Union wants to have good relations with all countries in the region, including Israel.
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.