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February 23, 1990 - Image 26

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-02-23

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

SPECIAL REPORT ❑ THE NEW EXODUS

have started organizing on
their own to help determine
their future. In December,
the Va'ad, the federation of
Soviet Jewish communities,
was created during the
historic Zionist Congress in
Moscow which brought to-
gether virtually all of the
200 Jewish organizations in
the USSR.
"Everyone felt the need to
be together," explained
Mikhail Chlenov of Moscow,
co-president of the Va'ad
and one of 12 Soviet Jews at
the journalists' conference.
"This is a dangerous time
and in the face of threats, we
are j oined in unity. "
During a conference semi-
nar on Soviet immigration,
Chlenov was joined by Na-
tan Sharansky, a leader of
Soviet Jews in Israel, and
Yuli Kosharovsky, a former
refusenik who emigrated to

Israel nine months ago.
A tiny man physically,
Chlenov was impressive
with his command of
English and his straight-
forward analysis of current
events. He explained that
the Va'ad was formed to
deal with "the basic ques-
tion for Soviet Jews — to
leave or not to leave" — and
with such issues as anti-
Semitism in the USSR, in-
formation on life in Israel
and the future of Jewish life
in the Soviet Union.
Chlenov said most Soviet
Jews favor aliyah to Israel,
but they are motivated by
"panic and hysteria" rather
than love of Zion. He called
Soviet anti-Semitism a
"boiling pot" that may ex-
plode at any minute.
Sharansky agreed that
"anti-Semitism in the USSR
is just beginning," but fo-

cused his remarks on his
frustration with Israeli au-
thorities for their lack of
preparedness. "A million
Jews want to leave Russia,
and this is our biggest chal-
lenge," he said. "It can only
be met by the unified work
of the Jewish community,
but we are not ready to cope
with this phenomenon."
As chairman of an umbrel-
la group of Soviet Jewish
organizations in Israel, Sha-
ransky said he is lobbying
for an emergency absorption
plan from the government
"but we are very upset be-
cause there is still no clear
plan." The Jewish Agency
has taken no special efforts,
he charged, and the gov-
ernment has not kept its
promises to build houses.
Sharansky said he is an-
gry that the government
prefers to treat him as a hero

rather than listen to his ad-
vice.
"We don't want to be just
symbols," he said. "We
want to be part of improving
absorption and to take re-
sponsibility for our views."
He and his group have
clashed with the Ministry of
Absorption, which refuses
to allow Sharansky and his
colleagues to meet with new-
ly arrived Soviet Jews at
Ben-Gurion Airport to give
them advice.
"Perhaps the army that
captured Entebbe should
help us capture Lod air-
port," he mused.
Sharansky said he will
take his case to American
Jewry to raise funds and en-
courage businesses to open
plants in Israel to create
desperately-needed jobs for
the new immigrants.
"Only if we are all part-

Journalists Told
Not To Trust
The Media

T

he Third Interna-
tional Jewish Media
Conference was
'dominated by the pre-
sence, for the first time, of
participants from the
Soviet Union and such
Eastern bloc countries as
Romania, Poland and
Czechoslovakia.
The 170 delegates from
27 countries — journal-
ists working in the Jewish
print, television or radio
media — were addressed
by Prime Minister Yit-
zhak Shamir, Finance
Minister Shimon Peres,
Defense Minister Yitzhak
Rabin, Foreign Minister
Moshe Arens and Deputy
Foreign Minister Ben-
jamin Netanyahu, and
many others, but most
sought after were the So-
viet and East European
journalists.
Indeed, a persistent
complaint, particularly
among the American del-
egates, was that the con-
ference organizers —
chiefly the World Zionist
Organization — brought
in too many government
officials to speak to the
group and did not allow

26

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1990

sufficient time for the
participants to discuss
and explore the pressures
and challenges of being a
Jewish journalist in their
own country.
The few opportunities
that did allow for fellow
journalists to meet and
hear from each other were
enlightening.
Chaim Rimer, editor of
Romania's only Jewish
newspaper, Mosaic
Cultulul, described the
recent revolution, and
how his countrymen suf-
fered. "The Almighty
sent ten plagues to the
Egyptians,' he said.
"Ceausescu sent worse
than that.
"There was darkness.
We remained without
light. There was terrible
cold. We could not sleep
at night. There was hun-
ger and fear and censor-
ship."
Rimer, in Israel for the
first time, said that his
paper had been pub-
lishing for 35 years. "It
was important that we
publish, even though
there were few readers of
Hebrew and Yiddish," he

The flags tell the story: USSR's flag alongside Israel's at the international
Jewish media conference.

said, noting that the pa-
per was read in the USSR
as well. Andrei Dozortsev
of Riga said that there are
now six official Jewish
publications in the USSR,
reaching a readership of
up to 200,000. He and
most of his Soviet col-
leagues at the conference
advocate aliyah and be-
lieve that most Soviet
Jews will be leaving, as
the fear of pogroms with-
in the USSR increases.
Only Tancred Golen-
polsky, editor of the gov-
ernment-approved Herald
Of Soviet Jewish Culture,
advocated Jews staying
behind and finding a

place for Judaism in the
Soviet Union.
"We are a part of Sovi-
et culture," he said. "It
would be a tragedy for
Jewish and Soviet culture
if no Jews remained in the
USSR."
Adam Kwaterko of the
Folks Sztyme in Warsaw
said that his newspaper's
chief responsibility to the
15,000 Jews of Poland
was to keep alive the
memory of the rich, vi-
brant Jewish community
that flourished there be-
fore the Holocaust.
But Desider Galski of
Vestnik in Prague said
that one of his primary

ners can this effort help," he
warned.
Kosharovsky, the former
refusenik, painted a depress-
ing assessment of Jewish
life in the USSR. Jews can-
not survive there as Jews, he
said. The best one can do is
work to create a mechanism
that will monitor and corn-
bat anti-Semitism while
keeping Jews abreast of in-
formation about Israel.
He warned that unless Is-
rael and world Jewry re-
spond positively to the chal-
lenge of this exodus, the re-
sults can be "a disaster."
During the ensuing ques-
tion and answer period, the
audience seemed intrigued
by the comments of one So-
viet Jewish journalist — for
his appearance and lack of
an accent as well as much as
for what he had to say.
Tancred Golenpolsky, who

missions in writing for
the small Jewish commu-
nity of Czechoslovakia
was "to keep our syna-
gogue, the oldest in Eu-
rope, open and alive and
not just a museum."
For the most part,
though, the conference
and seminar were struc-
tured along the lines of
the standard UJA mis-
sion to Israel, with nu-
merous speeches from
government leaders and
quick forays into trouble
spots on the West Bank.
One such visit, to the de-
velopment town of Ariel,
featured a lunch meeting
with the defiantly nation-
alist mayor, Ron
Nachman, who made
headlines last summer for
a short-lived attempt to
identify Arab visitors by
ID badges.
Nachman criticized the
policy of the Jewish A-
gency not to fund settle-
ments "beyond the green
line" (pre-1967 borders)
like Ariel, and ripped up a
PLO flag for the benefit
of photographers and
television crews. Then,
perhaps thinking he was
addressing a UJA mis-
sion, he closed his re-
marks by warning his
guests "never to trust the
media."
The stunned silence
that followed quickly
gave way to a mixture of
laughter, anger and ap-
plause from the scores of
journalists. ❑
Gary Rosenblatt

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