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May 05, 1989 - Image 20

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-05-05

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can/ye izo


illoy tizeyydi V'4eatet to-

The Modern Exodus
Poses Unique Problems

ill& ones/c 9o-eb tov-


Special to the Jewish News


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FRIDAY, MAY 5, 1989


he central theme that
runs through the Pass-
over liturgy is the re-
quirement that the Jew re-
experience for himself the
Biblical miracle of redemp-
tion from slavery.
The seder ritual makes this
clear — eating the matzah,
tasting the bitter herbs,
drinking four cups of wine,
reclining on a pillow — all re-
enact stages in the transition
from subjugation to freedom.
Clearly, the movement out
of the Soviet Union is nothing
less than a transformation
from slavery to freedom. In
their native land, these Jews
suffered educational and oc-
cupational discrimination,
and were severely restricted
in the practice of their
religion and the development
of their culture.
Once in the West —
whether in Israel, the United
States or elsewhere — they
enjoy equal educational and
economic rights as well as the
freedom to live Jewish lives.
But as anyone familiar with
the Biblical account of the ex-
odus knows, emancipation
from bondage is only the
beginning of a long redemp-
tive process.
When the Israelites were
slaves, their Egyptian
masters took care of their
basic needs.
Once free, however, they
had to adjust to a new situa-
tion where there was no
master on whom to rely. The
Torah recounts a series of bit-
ter complaints directed at
Moses about the hardships
that freedom had brought.
It is no surprise, then, that
instead of solving all pro-
blems, the new mass emigra-
tion of Soviet Jewry has rais-
ed new perplexities.
Where shall the Soviet Jews
go? The State of Israel,
established as a haven for
Jews from around the world,
would gladly welcome them
— and they were allowed out
of the Soviet Union on the
basis of Israeli visas.
But less than 10 percent
want to go there, most of the
others preferring the United
States. Are the efforts of
American Jews to aid Soviet
Jewish resettlement in the
United States undermining
Israel, or are such actions

Lawrence Grossman is director
of publications for the American
Jewish Committee.

heroic examples of traditional
Jewish solicitude for brothers
and sisters in distress?
Assuming that it is proper
for American Jews to help
Soviet Jews enter this coun-
try, how shall they prevail
upon the American govern-
ment to let more in?
The number of Jewish
emigrants waiting in Europe
to enter this country sur-
passes the number of refugee
slots allotted by- law. Pro-
posals to shift open slots from
other parts of the world to the
Soviet Union may create fric-
tion among the different
refugee organizations.
How will the emigration
and resettlement be funded?
Federal allocations for this
purpose are insufficient, and
the widespread sentiment for
cutting government expen-
ditures makes it unlikely that
enough money will be

The burden, then, will fall
on American Jewry. The
United Jewish Appeal has an-
nounced a $75 million
"Passage to Freedom" drive
to meet this need. There is no
way of knowing, at the pre-
sent time, whether this fund-
raising initiative will draw
contributions away from
other worthy causes.
Not all the problems
generated by this modern-day
exodus are political and
economic. Just as the Biblical
Israelites' emancipation was
a step on the road to the
spiritual experience at Mount
Sinai, where they received
the Torah, so too the struggle
for the physical freedom of
Soviet Jews must not ignore
matters of the spirit.
Recognizing the reality that
many Jews will stay in the
Soviet Union despite the op-
tion to emigrate, what can we
do to further the tentative
steps that have already been
taken to revive Jewish
religious, educational and
cultural life there?
And it would be less than
honest to ignore the fact that,
for all our success in getting
Soviet Jews out, we have fail-
ed, for the most part, in induc-
ing them to participate in
American Jewish life.
According to the Passover
Hagaddah, "In each genera-
tion one is required to see
oneself as if he went out of
Egypt." Our generation of
Jews are eyewitnesses to such
an exodus. It is up to us to
muster the wisdom to deal
successfully with the com-
plications that freedom

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