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June 30, 1989 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-06-30

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FRIDAY, JUNE 30, 1989


Has 'Freedom Of Choice'
Become Passe?




There are in-
creasing signs of
a change of
heart within
American Jewry
over the reset-
tlement of Soviet
Jews; the notion
that these immigrants should
go to Israel, rather than the
United States, is becoming
more acceptable for a variety
of reasons.
Six months ago, when the
United Jewish Appeal laun-
ched a special $75 million
campaign to help resettle
Soviet Jews in Israel or the
United States, the prevailing
attitude among American
Jewish leaders was that the
emigrants should have
freedom of choice — in other
words, let them come to
America if that is their
desired destination. Israeli of-
ficials object strenuously,
arguing that it is the job of
pro-Zionist Jewish organiza-
tions to help resettle Soviet
Jews in Tel Aviv or
Jerusalem, not Detroit or
Baltimore. Israel needs more
Jews, they argued, and if
American Jews weren't going
to come on aliyah themselves,
then the least they could do is
encourage Soviet Jewish
emigrants to go to Israel, and
help pay for their
But while the UJA Passage
to Freedom campaign has
done well locally, it has not
been a success nationally.
And with reports that the
number of Soviet Jews who
will be allowed to go free in
the next couple of years may
be as high as 500,000,
American Jewish and ad-
ministration officials are wor-
ried about the staggering cost
of such a resettlement.
The administration has
been floating a proposed plan
that would discourage entry
of anyone who does not have
close relatives or a firm job of-
fer in the United States,
which could affect about half
the number of emigrating
Soviet Jews. So far, there has
been no real outcry against
such a proposal, an indication
perhaps that American
Jewish groups are softening
their views.
The Israelis favor such an
administration plan, and
have been pressing
Washington to help direct
more Soviet Jews to Israel.
Jerusalem would like to see
direct flights from Moscow to

Israel, and Prime Minister
Yitzhak Shamir reportedly
suggested to Secretary of
State James Baker recently
that those Soviet Jews cleared
to leave the USSR wait in
Moscow, rather than in Vien-
na or Italy as is now the case.
Direct flights between the
USSR and Israel would not
only save the enormous cost
of subsidizing emigrants in
Europe awaiting their final
destination, but would pro-
vide a psychological boost for
the Zionist cause because it is
believed that Moscow would
sooner allow Soviet Jews to
leave for Israel than for the
United States.
Of course there are still
many American Jewish
leaders who feel that the first
priority should be to rescue
Soviet Jewry while it is possi-
ble to do so, and they see the
issue of destination as
These issues will soon be
debated at the annual
meeting of the Jewish Agen-
cy in Jerusalem, which

Direct flights
between the USSR
and Israel would
save the enormous
cost of subsidizing
emigrants in
Europe and would
provide a
boost for the
Zionist cause.

begins this week. The Israelis
want to see a greater percen-
tage of the total funds raised
for Soviet Jewry resettlement
go toward improving housing
in Israel and improving job
opportunities there. Will the
Diaspora delegates approve or
fight to keep most of the
funds for resettlement in the
United States?
Any significant change in
the balance of allocations
could indicate that American
Jewish leaders may begin to
mute their talk about
freedom of choice, and work
more openly and directly
toward encouraging Soviet
Jews to settle in Israel.
Whether they are motivated
by the enormous cost of reset-
tlement in the United States
or by the Zionist cause is less
important than the practical
outcome. And that, in turn,
may help determine whether
more Soviet Jews will be set-
tling in Israel.

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