Ida Nudel, the Jewish refusnik who has been denied an exit visa to emigrate to Israel since 1972, celebrated her 53rd birthday in April in her exile city of Bendery, with actress Jane Fonda by her side.
“We were the first Westerners to have visited her in six years,” Fonda said in a press conference in New York after her return from a five-day trip to the Soviet Union. The actress, who has taken a personal interest in Nudel’s case since 1980 after she met with Nudel’s sister, Elena Fridman, in Jerusalem, said that she spent three days with Nudel, who lives alone in a simple, “very small” house with her dog.
Fonda said she went to the Soviet Union to meet with Nudel and discuss her case with Soviet officials. In Moscow, she met with V.V. Kuznetsov, head of Ovir, the Soviet emigration agency, and asked that Nudel be allowed to emigrate to Israel to be reunited with her sister. The Soviet official said that Nudel’s case in an “internal affair” and that it is not different from many other cases, Fonda reported.
“Ida Nudel is a woman whose case has deeply touched my heart, a woman of great courage and determination,” Fonda stated. “She has risked much to stand up to the Soviet authorities, to practice her faith and to celebrate her Jewish heritage. She continues to be a source of spiritual support for many other refuseniks and Prisoners of Conscience.”
Fonda said that her visit gave Nudel “strength and the proof that she is not forgotten.” According to Fonda, Nudel told her that the visit made her “safe” and probably would prevent further Soviet harassment.
Fonda vowed to continue her activity on behalf of Soviet Jewry in general and Nudel in particular. She declared:
“Those of us who speak and work for peace and for a climate of better relations between the two superpowers cannot turn a blind eye to the abuse of human rights in the Soviet Union, abuses which are unworthy of a powerful nation. I plead, in the name of peace, for a relaxing of restrictions on Soviet Jews who wish to emigrate, and for a humanitarian gesture towards Ida Nudel.” (JTA May 2, 1984).