Major Jewish organizations said yesterday they have told the Bush administration they now favor waiving a law that has prevented the United States from providing credits to the Soviet Union to buy food.
Members of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry meeting this week believe the restrictions should be waived "because of the emergency situation in the Soviet Union and because of the record number of emigrants," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry is an umbrella group that includes the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.
The White House, under pressure from the U.S. farm sector, is reviewing its policy of withholding credits from the Soviet Union until it formally reforms its emigration laws. Farm-state congressmen argue that the United States is missing out on billions of dollars worth of farm commodity sales to the Soviets because of the trade restrictions.
Foxman said most Jewish groups had revised their position because of "the actual reality of emigration of Soviet Jews -- the figures for the month of November are over 25,000." He also said credits should be offered "out of concern for providing food and stability to the Soviet Union," which is enduring massive food shortages.
Soviet officials have said they will not buy U.S. grain without export credits and have been using credits offered by other grain-exporting countries.
Jess Hordes, the Anti-Defamation League's director here, said Jewish leaders were told the administration had not made a final decision on the issue.
Foxman said the Jewish community supported a waiver, not a repeal, of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to a 1974 trade act that imposed restrictions unless the Soviet Union reformed its emigration laws. "This is a waiver that could be reinstated should the position change," he said.