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August 12, 1983 - Image 61

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-08-12

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Friday, August 12, 1983 61

Informative 'Becoming Israelis' Probes Soviet Jewry Issue


(Editor's note: Mrs.
Sharfman has long been
active in efforts to rescue
Soviet Jews. She also is a
former honoree of the
American Red Magen
David for Israel. Her re-
view is an analysis of the
current Russian Jewish
emigration problem and
an appeal for continuing
action in their behalf.
(Dr. Gitelman is the di-
rector of the Center for
Russian and East Euro-
pean Studies at the Uni-
versity of Michigan,
where he also is a profes-
sor of political science.)
Dr. Zvi Gitelman, an ex-
pert on the Soviet Union,
Soviet Jews and Israel (just
to mention a few of his areas
of expertise) has written a
wonderfully down to earth,
and most informative book
called "Becoming Israelis"
(Praeger Publishers).
Dr. Gitelman is a tradi-
tional Jew, his love of
Judaism and Israel is -al-
ways evident as he lectures,
and this same love is evi-
dent in his book; at the same
time Dr. Gitelman has
never been fearful of "tel-
ling it like it is," whether in
his lectures on various sub-
jects, nor is there any hesi-
tance in his book in detail-
ing how immigrants to Is-
rael "Become Israelis."
He discusses the right
and the wrong of the sys-
tem. Neither his lectures
nor his writings have any
political leanings, just sub-
stantiated facts. Being an
admirer of Dr. Gitelman, I
have no idea where his
political leanings are. He
clearly has a talent for tel-
ling the unadulterated
He is not afraid to
criticize, nor to compli-
ment, as is evident in this
book. In fact, construc-
tive criticism, when
needed, clearly illus-
trates caring and con-
cern. He has spent much
effort in research (his
own), and has also used
many other- sources
available in Israel for this
book, taking advantage
of newspapers, academic
studies, research studies
and many other relevant
books and materials.
He has produced a
monumental book through
monumental effort.
Dr. Gitelman refers to his
book as "an Israeli case
study — a study of interna-
tional migration and its re-
lationships to politics. It
deals with three major





And other Special Occasions.
Clowns, juggling, magic,
music dance, Puppets,
balloon sculpture.

areas of political analysis of
migration: migration
policies, the political out-
looks of migrants and the
behavior of migrants, and
the political resocialization
of immigrants."
Specifically it is a "study
of Soviet and American
Jews who have immigrated
to Israel in the last decade,_
of the political decisions
that caused or permitted
this immigration and of the
political impact on the im-
migrants themselves and on
the host society."
Dr. Gitelman inter-
viewed two "matched
groups of Soviet and
American immigrants to
Israel in 1972 and rein-
terviewed them again in
1973, in their native lan-
guages, in order to have
first-hand material on
absorption 'and political
resocialization, also to
trace changes in be-
havior and outlook dur-
ing their first few years in
This has produced re-
sults, usual or unusual, de-
pending on one's point of
view, but most interesting. I
personally found them fas-
cinating, and not what I
would expect. Those con-
cerned with, and interested
in Israel will find "Becom-
ing Israelis" informative
and at the same time will
add to their understanding
of Israelis, olim to Israel and


Israel is truly a unique
country. It is the only coun-
try that continues to
encourage immigration
from all over the world.
"The raison d'etre" of the
state is to restore the politi-
cal independence and via-
bility of the Jewish people
exiled from their homeland
over 1,900 years ago and to
"gather in the dispersed."
"Immigration lies at the
core of Israel's meaning to
its own citizens and to the
Jewish people around the
"It is important to note
that Soviet and American
immigrants come to Israel,
not as refugees, but of their
own free will from the two
most powerful countries in
the world. They are usually
educated and skilled, com-
ing from the higher strata of
highly developed societies,
but yet different political
directions to a common
ground of Israel — demo-
cratic and socialistic at the
same time.
The differences be-
tween Soviet and Ameri-
can olim as pointed out
by Dr. Gitelman merit at-
tention and will lead to


further understanding.
"American Zionists see
their primary aim as pro-
viding economic and politi-
cal aid to Israel, not aliya,
thus the largest Jewish
community provides only a
tiny proportion of olim to Is-
rael. More Americans made
aliya between 1968 and
1973 than ever before or
since. Aliya is perceived as
an individual decision, not
as a communal obligation.
Fund raising and aliya may
conflict — aliya could cause
a weakening of American
Jewry by depleting its lead-
ership of numbers, talent
and money."
I have heard many dedi-
cated, hardworking Ameri-
can Jewish leaders state, Is-
rael is a wonderful place to
visit, but I would not want
to live there. The United
Jewish Appeal asks for
funds on the basis of secu-
rity and to alleviate social
problems — thus, this in
and of itself discourages
aliya, due to the fact that it
emphasizes the negative.
American Jews are not an
"alienated population," but
at the same time, (as Dr.
Gitelman points out) 40
percent state that in some,
or many ways, they do not
feel at home in America.
American olim are not
pushed toward Israel: they
come to, rather than away
from. It should be kept in
mind that the 1967 riots,
the drug scene and assimi-
lation may have provided
some "push" elements for
the olim.
"Orthodox Jews are
over-represented in the
olim. They are probably
attracted to the Holy
Land in their need for an
intensely. Jewish
environment and at the
same time reject the mass
American culture and
social values."
American olim are more
likely to have a relatively
intense Jewish education
causing a high level of
Jewish consciousness and
affiliation in the commu-
nity and with synagogues,
rather than affiliation with
Zionist organizations. Ac-
cording to studies, only
about half of the olim had
any Zionist affiliation.
"This Zionist affiliation is
more of a consequence than
a casual factor."
Amqican olim are more
likely to have visited Israel
prior to making aliya. They
are also able to inquire
about and sometimes find
employment and/or housing
prior to moving to Israel.

The American olim do not
have negative feelings
toward the United States.
The Americans have the op-
tion of returning to the
United States.
"They constitute an edu-
cational and occupational
elite in Israel, even when
compared to the population
from which they come, and
this colors their attitude
toward Israelis, Israeli offi-
cials and Israeli society."
Dr. Gitelman spends
much time on the Soviet
Jewish aliya movement,
and rightly so. They have
constituted an important
element of olim to Israel
and make vital and im-
portant contributions to
the state: however, they
are different, coming
from a totally different
They are generally not
religious (although most
that I know in Israel are —
however, I would assume
that they are not the norm).
They have had no opportu-
nity to visit Israel prior to
aliya, to arrange for a place
to live, nor have they had
opportunities to seek em-
ployment prior to making
aliya. In addition, they can-
not go back to the Soviet
Union, if things do not work
out in Israel.
Soviet olim cannot be
classified in one category
taking into account the
different areas from which
they came. Dr. Gitelman
goes into much detail to
bring out the differences in
background, education and
Jewish feelings of those
from the RSFSR (the heart-
land of the Soviet Union),
the Zapadniki (the Wester-
ners, those from those states
absorbed by the Soviet
Union in 1938 to 1944),
those from Georgia, Central
Asia and Azerbaijan — the
mountain Jews.
They are all different,
coming to Israel with differ-
ent points of view, with dif-
fering feelings toward
Judaism and Israel — thus
the contributions to Israel
and/or the problems are
unique, depending on the
places of origin.
"Generally speaking,
the educational and oc-
cupational profile of the
Soviet olim is quite close
to that of the Americans.
In size and political
terms, the Soviet immi-
gration is far more sig-
nificant than the Ameri-
can one."
According to Dr. Gitel-
man's researched figures
from 1967 to the end of
1980, 439,488 immigrants
came to Israel. A total of 376
percent of 156,190 came
from the Soviet Union. Dur-
ing the peak years of 1972-
1973, Soviet olim comprised
almost 60 percent of the
total immigration. Taking a
10-year span from 1970 to
1980, Soviets made up al-
most half of the immig-
The number of noshrim
(drop-outs to the West from
Vienna) has risen steadily
since 1976 and 1977. Much
has been written, and many
accusations have been made

by many regarding this sub-
ject or problem. Dr. Gitel-
man goes into the many
reasons for this occurring,
and once again he states the
reasons as they are, neither
condoning nor condemning.
His reasoning is sound and
Speaking, personally,
suffice it for me to state that
my friends in Israel from
the Soviet Union, all of
them ardent Zionists are
furious at the noshrim.
They feel that Israel is the
only place in the world for
Jews to live.
If Soviet Jews decide to
live in the Galut — then
they should not be sub-
sidized by Jewish organ-
izations. Please realize,
that they all suffered for
years before they were
able to make aliya,
whether as refusniks for
years, or as prisoners. In
fact, one former prisoner
said to me "Those that
have been allowed to
leave lately, should have
spent years in prison
camps, then they would
know what it means to
live in Israel as a Jew."
That statement may be
harsh, but he has become an
Israeli, who speaks his
mind, in addition he spent
seven years in a labor camp.
He came to Israel, and has
built a beautiful life for
himself and his family. This
argument will go on for as
long as the problem exists,
and probably with no solu-
tions satisfactory to anyone.
Interesting statistics re-
garding olim should be
noted: 37 percent of the
American olim returned to
the United States within
five years, whereas only
seven percent of the olim
from Eastern Europe left.
As Dr. Gitelman pointed out
very clearly, there are more
success stories regarding
absorption into the Israeli
way of life of the Soviet olim
than unsuccessful tales.
Unfortunately, headlines
and stories are made by
those with problems and a
few troublemakers. One
must realize as one looks at
the above statistics, that the
Soviet Jews cannot return
to the Soviet Union, and at
the same time, they have
difficulty emigrating to
other countries. "Obviously
those that chose Israel are
more likely to have Jewish
feelings and be Zionistic."
In the month of June,
102 Jews left the Soviet
Union of which 41 went to
Israel. The number of
noshrim dropped per-
centagewise, even as the
number of Jews leaving
is pitifully small. The
friends that I have in Is-
rael from the Soviet
Union (perhaps they are
not the usual, since most
of them had very difficult
struggles to get to Israel)
would live no where else,
but in Israel. They are
happy and content, cop-
ing with everyday prob-
Both the American and
Soviet olim have brought a
level of skills and vocational
training to Israel that few

previous immigrations had
brought. "By 1974, nearly
6,000 engineers and ar-
chitects had arrived, almost
2,000 doctors and over 500
scientists had entered the
country with several
thousand more arriving be-
fore the end of the decade.
"In addition, 2,500 skilled
workers and 5,000 unskil-
led workers had come from
the Soviet Union in the
1970s. The educational and
skill levels of Soviet immig-
rants are somewhat lower
than those of American
newcomers, but the Euro-
pean Soviets are very simi-
lar to the Americans."
The Soviet immigrants
are considered refugees by
the Israelis, in general,
therefore, they do not be-
come considered elite, be-
cause generally speaking
they do not being much
wealth with them. How-
ever, the contributions they
make are enormous.
The doctors, nurses
and dentists are able to
practice their profes-
sions quickly. This, in
contrast to those who
come to the United States
in the medical (and some-
times other fields) pro-
fession and must be re-
trained. It can take years
before they can begin to
practice their profes-
sions. Many times, they
must change their pro-
fessions completely.
An interesting note: on a
trip to the Dead Sea Works
last year, we were told the
research department is all
Russian, with mostly Rus-
sian spoken and even Rus-
sian signs on the door.

Next week, Part II.

Sonic Boom
Shakes Arad

sonic boom shook the Negev
town of Arad Monday, shat-
tering windows, dislodging
marble slabs from walls and
sending solar heaters crash-
ing from rooftops onto the
streets below.
Residents said that a
dozen fighter planes made a
low pass over the town. Air
Force chief, Maj. Gen.
Lapidot, and the comman-
der of the flight rushed to
the area when they received
reports of the sonic boom.
They indicated that the
pilots might have deviated
from their authorized flight
pattern and promised that
an investigation to ensure it
will not happen again. Some
changes are expected to be
made in Air Force flight
routes over the country.

Canada Honors

least two public areas in
eastern Canada have been
named after Raoul Wallen-
In metropolitan Toronto,
a roadway leading into Earl
Bales Park in the suburb of
North York bears his name.
On Aug. 21, a park in the
Ottawa suburb of Nepean
will be named for the dip-

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