12. Memorandum From A. Denis Clift and John Lehman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1


  • Soviet Jewry—1) Shapiro Case
  • 2) President’s Position

I. Shapiro Case

Bill Timmons has sent you the memorandum at Tab A2 informing you that Senator Robert Taft, Jr., is under great pressure from his constituent Judith Silver Shapiro to get US action that would permit her Soviet husband to emigrate to the United States. Taft has expressed the specific hope to Timmons that the President will take this up with Ambassador Dobrynin.

On July 15, Jeanne Davis sent Timmons a proposed reply to Senator Taft on the Shapiro case (Tab B),3 and it is possible that these memos have crossed. As noted in the proposed reply, the President has great sympathy for Mrs. Shapiro, and he has directed the United States to do everything it appropriately can to help.

State Department has been pressing the Soviet Embassy hard on this issue. As recently as July 18, however, DCM Vorontsov told Dick Davies that the decision depended on Moscow. It is State’s impression that the Soviets will proceed with Shapiro’s July 26 trial for draft evasion, but that the trial sentence will not be severe.

As we have just sent Timmons the proposed reply to Senator Taft, you may wish to call him, note that the reply states the case correctly, and that the President has instructed State to do what it can to make the Soviets see reason and permit Shapiro to emigrate.

II. Soviet Jewry

The problems we are having with the Shapiro case raise the broader problem we are experiencing with the currently approved statement of the President’s position on Soviet Jewry. The text of this statement is as follows:

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“On behalf of the President, I want to thank you for your message about the summit talks in Moscow and the subject of Soviet Jews.

As you know, the United States firmly supports the right of all people to emigrate, and this Administration has consistently upheld that doctrine. In travelling to Russia, the President was fully aware of the deep concern in this country for the plight of minorities who are denied fundamental freedoms, and you may be assured that our steadfast commitment to the principles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been made known to the Soviets.”

State is feeling the pressure of growing public and Congressional correspondence on the Summit talks/Soviet Jewry issue, correspondence either complimenting the President or questioning whether he did raise the issue. Accordingly, drawing on Mr. Kissinger’s May 29 Kiev press conference and a June 7 statement by Herb Klein,4 State would like to revise its public responses by adding the following (see State’s memorandum at Tab C):5

“President Nixon is well aware of the feelings of many Americans concerning the plight of Jews in the USSR and joins in their deep concern. I can assure you that he expressed our concern with the situation to all the top leaders of the Soviet Union.”

This additional statement would appear to be clearly unacceptable, and State should be told to stick with the existing guidance. The memorandum for Jeanne Davis’ signature to State at Tab D6 would do this.

However, when one takes into account 1) the continuing correspondence and 2) the publicized statement by the President’s campaign staff that he will be taking a strong stand on Soviet Jewry, we still need a clearer statement of the President’s position on Soviet Jewry.

It is our understanding that, prior to the Republican Convention, the President plans to meet with prominent Jewish-Americans including the President of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. If this is so it would appear to be the logical time for an up to date statement of the President’s views on Soviet Jewry, and updated guidance to State could be provided following that meeting. If, however, such a meeting is not scheduled, it would seem important that the NSC and interested offices in the White House develop an updated statement for consideration by the President. May we have your guidance on this issue?

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1) That you call Bill Timmons with regard to Senator Taft’s inquiry, drawing on the information in Section I of this memorandum.

2) That you approve the memorandum for Jeanne Davis’ signature to State directing State to stick with the currently approved language in replying to letters on Soviet Jewry.7

3) That you authorize NSC staff working with interested White House offices to develop an updated statement on Soviet Jewry for consideration by the President.8

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 720, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Vol. XXIII. Confidential. Sent for action.
  2. Attached but not printed is Timmons’ July 8 memorandum.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. White House Director of Communications for the Executive Branch. The statement confirmed that both Nixon and Rogers raised the issue of Jewish emigration at the Moscow Summit. (The New York Times, July 8, 1972, p. 7)
  5. Attached but not printed is a July 17 memorandum from Eliot to Kissinger.
  6. Attached but not printed is Davis’ undated memorandum to Eliot.
  7. Haig checked the Approve option.
  8. Haig did not check either the Approve or the Disapprove option. He wrote at the bottom of the memorandum: “nonsense—this case is a farse [sic]—we are not going to jeopardize between now and November what we’re doing w/ Sovs on this issue.” On July 26, Haig wrote to Kissinger: “Judy Shapiro’s husband received a sentence of 12 months at corrective labor today which means that he doesn’t go to prison, but stays at his own home and job, etc., and it allows him to emigrate. He (Shapiro) told reporters his light sentence was a result of his wife’s pressure and U.S. Government pressure on the Soviets.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 994, Alexander M. Haig Chronological File) On August 7, Kehrli wrote in a memorandum to Kissinger that Judy Shapiro “said on Today that she’s still not heard from the WH re: requests to get U.S. help for her husband. She feels the Shapiro case would give RN a chance to show U.S. Jews he’s concerned with plight of Soviet Jews.” Haig replied to Kehrli on August 10 that the issue had “already been raised with Ambassador Dobrynin. The matter is of such sensitivity that no further action should be taken.” (Ibid., Box 995, Alexander M. Haig Chronological File)