Nearly five years after his celebrated release from a Soviet prison and the beginning of his free life in Israel, Natan Sharansky went to Towson last night to appeal to American Jews not only to support Israel monetarily but to create businesses there.
Mr. Sharansky, whose struggle to leave the Soviet Union made )) him a celebrity in the eyes of Jews around the world, said that each day 2,000 Soviet Jews emigrate to Israel in search of freedom of expression, decent homes and productive lives.
And while Israelis have wholeheartedly joined in support of this exodus, he said, the demand for new jobs, housing and consumer goods is overwhelming them.
"Each month we get 500 doctors coming into Israel," he said. "There is no way to raise enough money for the absorption of all these people. You must bring your businesses to Israel and turn Israel into the medical and scientific center of the world."
Mr. Sharansky, 41, went to the Towson Center last night to receive the Zionist Organization of America's annual Justice Louis D. Brandeis Award. Named for the late Supreme Court justice, the award has recognized outstanding leadership in the Zionist cause for 47 years.
He shared the award with Baltimorean Shoshana Cardin, chairwoman of the National Conference of Soviet Jewry.
Mr. Sharansky told the receptive audience of 2,000 that the migration of Soviet Jews to Israel would only increase in the coming years because of deep-rooted anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. He said the hate is rising as the economy worsens.
"As the Soviet regime falls apart, there's no hope anti-Semitism will weaken, because Jews are being blamed for all the problems," he said.
Israelis, once hesitant about accepting such numbers of Soviet Jews, have come to see the exodus as a reaffirmation of their struggle to maintain sovereignty, he said.
"By watching these Jews come in, the Israelis have seen how important it is to have a state of Israel and that it is worth fighting for."
Mrs. Cardin also appealed to the audience for support of Israel and urged visits to the Jewish state. "Israel has been isolated, and we are her link," she said. "We must go there and touch and share and feel our oneness with them."