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February 17, 1989 - Image 31

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-02-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Increase
your interest
in Israel

11 0/ 0

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to play a major role in sorting
out the current immigration
bottlenecks in Rome and
Moscow.
"Morrison is an outstan-
ding member," said Mark
Talisman, Washington direc-
tor for the Council of Jewish
Federations. "He obviously
believes in equity in refugee
programs; he's not looking for
special treatment for
anybody, but is committed to
the idea of America as a
haven for everybody!'

NCSJ's Wenick
to Empahsize
D.C. As Base

The recent appointment of
Martin A. Wenick as ex-
ecutive director of the Na-
tional Conference on Soviet
Jewry (NCSJ) is one more
sign of the Soviet Jewry
movement's growing
Washington emphasis.
Although the group's New
York office will continue to
operate, Wenick, a longtime
State Department profes-
sional and a leading
Sovietologist, will probably
emphasize Washington as a
base of operations, where his
familiarity with the complex
ways of the State Department
will be an invaluable resource
to the group.
The Union of Councils of
Soviet Jews already uses
Washington as a base of
operations. The Washington
offices of the Council of
Jewish Federations and the
American Jewish Committee
continue to play a major role
in the movement.
"What we're seeing is a
reflection of the growing
sophistication of the move-
ment," said one Capitol Hill
source who works closely with
Soviet Jewry groups. "In-
creasingly, they recognize
that access to the decision-
making V process in
Washington requires an im-
mersion in the Washington
environment. Wenick's ap-
pointment was the clearest
possible statement of the
move towards a Washington
point of view. I think it's a
whole new phase for the
movement!'

Lesser Mirrors
Jewish Political
Rise In U.S.

Jewish political power in
Washington has changed
dramatically in the past 40
years, and Allen Lesser has

been there every step of the
way.
Lesser, a longtime Capitol
Hill staffer, editor and lob-
byist, currently is preparing
his papers for the American
Jewish Archives in Cincin-
nati. In his files are hundreds
of letters documenting the
tremendous growth of pro-
Israel politics in this country
and some of the changes that
have transformed the pro-
Israel movement in the years
since the birth of the Jewish
state.
"I began my career as assis-
tant editor of The Menorah, a
major Jewish cultural
magazine in the '30s!" Lesser
said. "From there I went to
the American Jewish Com-
mittee, where I was assistant
editor of the Contemporary
Jewish Record — the
predecessor to Commentary!'
After a stint as public rela-
tions director for B'nai B'rith,
Lesser went to work for the
American Zionist Council of
Public Affairs, the group that
eventually became today's
American Israel Public Af-
fairs Committee (AIPAC).
"Back then, there were just
two or three of us," he said.
"The focus was entirely on
Congress. lbday, of course,
AIPAC is a huge organization
— and their concerns have
moved well beyond Congress!"
Along with Sy Kenen, the
group's director and leading
figure, Lesser created the
Near East Report.
"My first job there was
writing ten questions for
Hubert Humphrey to ask
Secretary of State John
Foster Dulles at a committee
hearing;' Lesser said. "This
started a long friendship with
Humphrey that continued un-
til his death!'
Lesser also began writing
speeches for New York
senator Jacob Javits; even-
tually he joined Javit's
Washington staff, writing
more than 100 speeches about
Israel.
"Javits was the kind of guy
who could listen to hours of
hearings, and then pinpoint
every single weakness in the
testimony. The only problem
is that he wanted to work 24
hours a day?'
Lesser also likes to talk
about the speech he edited for
Richard Nixon during the
1960 presidential campaign.
"It was a speech to the ZOA,"
he said. "I cut out some
things the State Department
put in that would have just
killed him!'

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FIRMLY ROOTED IN ISRAEL,
BRANCHING OUT IN NEW DIRECTIONS

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

31

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