Russia's top rabbi urges US to lift trade curbs

Russia's chief rabbi on Thursday urged the United States to lift three-decades-old trade restrictions on Russia, after US lawmakers took a step toward removing them from neighboring Ukraine. The Cold War-era restrictions were imposed in response to the Soviet Union's treatment of Jewish dissidents. On Friday, the US Senate voted to exempt Ukraine from the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, a move which must be approved by the US House of Representatives. Rabbi Berel Lazar said he welcomed the Senate vote repealing the measure for Ukraine. "But the fact that it remains in force with respect to Russia is really perplexing," he said in a statement released by his press service. Lazar urged US lawmakers to re-examine the issue "proceeding from existing realities." The rabbi said that the Jackson-Vanik amendment was outdated because the Jewish community in Russia was flourishing, and he charged that trade interests were blocking its repeal. The legislation prevents Russia from joining the World Trade Organization.