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October 09, 1981 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-10-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

11.
TIE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

18 Friday, October 9, 1981

Conflict Over Aid to Emigres

By BORIS SMOLAR

tion from the Soviet Union
would be forthcoming if the
emigres would proceed to
Israel, in conformity with
their exit visas.
This brought about the
agency's new policy which
gives the Jewish refugees
from the Soviet Union the
alternative of either pro-
ceeding to Israel or remain-
ing without aid by major
Jewish organizations in
countries where they are
stranded as strangers.

(Editor-in-chief emeritus, JTA)
(Copyright 1981, JTA, Inc.)

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The new decision of the
Jewish Agency was to no
longer refer dropouts to
HIAS and to inform them
that if they refuse to pro-
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A serious conflict has
been brewing quietly dur-
ing the last weeks between
the Jewish Agency and
American Jewish leaders
over the emigration of
Soviet Jews to the United
States and countries other
than Israel. Involved di-
rectly is HIAS, which as-
sists Soviet Jewish refugees
to emigrate to countries
other than Israel when they
refuse to proceed to Israel
upon their reaching Vienna
— their first stop in the free
world.
A temporary compromise
which may lead to a solution
satisfactory to all sides
within a period of 90 to 180
days from now was finally
reached in Jerusalem at the
Jewish Agency board of
governors meeting in which
Americans serve as mem-
bers.
The conflict arose when
the Jewish Agency intro-
duced a few weeks ago a new
policy aimed at preventing
Soviet Jewish refugees from
becoming "dropouts" when
they reach Vienna.
Hitherto, agency officials in
Vienna referred to such re-
fugees to HIAS which aided
them with the necessary
formalities to secure visas
in other countries. While
waiting for these visas, they
were being maintained as
refugees by the Joint Dis-
tribution Committee (JDC).

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Referrals to American
Jewish agencies for assis-
tance were given by the
Jewish Agency under its
new policy only to those who
have parents, children and
spouses in the country
where they wish to settle.
Brothers and sisters were
excluded under the agency's
new plan, to the great dis-
satisfaction of American
Jewish leaders.
The Jewish Agency
notified the U.S. govern-
ment and the Austrian gov-
ernment of its decision. It
also informed the Dutch
Embassy which looks after
Israeli interests in Moscow
and acts as the inter-
mediary on affidavits sent
by Israelis to relatives and
friends wishing to emigrate
to Israel.
Leaders ofJewish organi-
zations engaged in helping
the Soviet Jewish refugees
— including many of the
larger communities in the
U.S. which absorb them
upon reaching this country
— were very unhappy over
the new policy of the Jewish
Agency.

Leaders of HIAS re-
jected outright and
loudly the Jewish
Agency position. The
Joint Distribution Com-
mittee, which maintains
the refugees until they

receive their visas from

BORIS SMOLAR

the United States after a
wait of several weeks in
Italy, wishes to continue
abiding by its policy and
practice. The Jewish fed-
erations have reiterated
their view that Jews com-
ing out of the Soviet
Union should be helped
to resettle in the country
of their choice.

There is fear that if the
American Jewish agencies
in Vienna and Italy discon-
tinue their aid to the re-
fugees who do not wish to
proceed to Israel, the latter
will turn for aid to non-
Jewish agencies who make
no religious distinction and
also assist Jewish refugees
when they apply for aid.
More than 90 percent of
the cost of assisting re-
fugees from the Soviet
Union is covered by the U.S.
government. This includes
transportation to the U.S.
The U.S. government has
indicated that this policy is
motivated by humanitarian
considerations and that this
will change despite the new
policy by the Jewish
Agency.
Among the agencies be-
nefitting from this policy is
the Rav Tov, an organiza-
tion which is operated by
the anti-Zionist Satmar
Hasidim which does not
recognize the restrictions
imposed by the Jewish
Agency. Of the 259 Jews
from the Soviet Union ar-
rived in Vienna by Sept. 21,
78 turned for assistance to
Ray Tov to proceed to the
U.S.

What prompted the
Jewish Agency to em-
bark on its new policy?

In an effort to secure
larger Jewish emigration
from the Soviet Union —
which dropped from about
4,000 in July two years ago
to a mere few hundred in
July this year, and was even
lower in August — a Jewish
delegation in Canada inter-
vened with the Soviet Am-
bassador there. The delega-
tion was told by the Ambas-
sador that the Soviet gov-
ernment is "embarrassed"
by the fact that most of the
Soviet Jews permitted to
emigrate to Israel do not go
to Israel, but proceed for set-
t lrem
ie s ent in Western coun-

"We do not permit any of
our other citizens to emig:
rate to Western lands, why
should we permit this to
Jews?" the Ambassador was
reported as stating. This
was taken by the Jewish
Agency leadership as a hint
that larger Jewish emigra-

There is the possibility
that the statement made
by the Soviet Ambas-
sador in Canada was
merely his own opinion
and not the view of the
Moscow government; or

that it was merely bluf-
fing tactics in order to di-

vert world criticism of
Moscow's violation of the
Helsinki pact which pro-
vides for rights to emig-

rate.

The decision adopted at
the end of last month at the
meeting of the board of gov-
ernors of the Jewish Agency
— after long deliberations
with leaders of the Council
ofJewish Federations, Joint
Distribution Committee
and HIAS — constitutes a
compromise by both sides to
see whether the Jewish
Agency's new policy will
bring during the next 90 to
180 days an increased emig-
ration from the Soviet Un-
ion, or whether the hint by
the Soviet Ambassador in
Canada was just a bluff.
In the meantime, HIAS
and the JDC will continue
to render assistance to those
Soviet Jewish refugees
qualified to proceed to the
U.S. and other countries
outside of Israel as persons
having parents, children or
spouses in these countries.

The Jewish Agency also
made a compromise with
regard to brothers and sis-
ters: If a refugee has a
brother or sister in Israel
and also in a country out-
side of Israel, he must pro-
ceed to Israel, but if he has a
brother or a sister in a coun-
try outside of Israel only, he
is qualified to proceed to
that country with the aid of
HIAS and JDC.

As matters stand now,
when the emigration from
the Soviet Union is at its
lowest, the number of Soviet
Jews proceeding to Israel
following their arrival in
Vienna has risen from 15
percent to 30 percent after
the Jewish Agency adopted
its new policy.

However, the total
number of Jews permitted
to leave Russia during that
period was just a few
hundred. More than a third
of them continued to Israel,
another third was qualified
by the Jewish Agency to re-
ceive aid from JDC and
HIAS and seek settlement
in countries outside of Is-
rael, and the remainder
applied for assistance to
Ray Tov and to American
non-Jewish organizations
engaged in helping emigra-
tion of Soviet refugees to the
United States.

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