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Ort Agreement with Soviet Opens New Avenue for Relief of Declassed Groups

The program of the Ort under its new agreement with the Soviet Government, allowing the importation into Russia of tools and machinery duty free, was explained by Dr. David Lvovitch, member of the presidium of the European Ort, who arrived in the United States recently, after he had participated in the Moscow negotiations for the conclusion of the agreement.

Measures to enlist the cooperation of American Jews who have relatives in Russia are planned as a part of the program, which aims to provide an opportunity for earning a livelihood to declassed Jews who cannot be settled on the land.

“According to the new agreement, the Ort is given the privilege to import to Russia, duty free, $1,500,000 worth of implements and machinery within the next five years,” Dr. Lvovitch stated. “This sum is a minimum, we may import as much above this figure as we want. This machinery will go chiefly to the population working in the towns.

“During the last three years the tremendous strides made by colonization under the supervision of the Agro-Joint have certainly eased the economic duress of the Russian Jewish population, and the increasing stream of colonization which will be taken care of under the new $20,000,000 program of the Agro-Joint will ease it still more. We in Europe are highly appreciative of this new task undertaken by a few leading Jews in America. But no matter how great the effort in that direction will be and no matter how great its success, a great proportion of the 2,600,000 Jews in Russia will be left declassed. And these must be taken care of within the boundaries of the towns themselves.

“The situation in the towns has become worse because of the recently intensified policies of the Soviet government to abolish all private business. The need for not only the middleman but for the whole small Jewish town community has been wiped out because the government provides the village with all the necessities of life directly from the big cities. The situation is so acute that the government has decided to take special measures against it. The White Russian government has issued a special decree to help 9 small towns. The Comzet, which was organized originally only for colonization purposes, has now been authorized to work for industrialization.

“But for industrialization of the Jewish population machinery is necessary, and for this the government has no funds,” he continued. “It is impossible to get new machinery in Russia. Recognizing this difficulty a year ago the Ort began the importation of machinery for artisans in addition to its colonization program in the Odessa region and White Russia where we are being aided by the Joint Distribution Committee. But the assistance for artisans has been limited only to those who were members of artisan cooperatives, and millions of declassed Jews were excluded. The new agreement with the Soviet government will enable us to help the individual declassed Jews, if their relatives in other countries will pay for it. Millions of dollars go across annually to Russian Jews from their relatives in other countries, in small monthly remittances. But these remittances can accomplish nothing constructively. For this reason thousands of Russian Jews, even the poorest ones, are applying to their relatives for sewing or knitting machines and not for money. If, of the many millions which are supposed to go across annually in this form only 10 percent were transformed into machinery-purchasing power, the $1,500,000 worth of machinery we have agreed to import would go into Russia within one year instead of five.

“Not only relatives resident in the United States, but also South Africa, South America and in European countries send such help.

“The Ort sends machinery to Poland. Lithuania, Roumania, and other Eastern European countries, even to Palestine, but machinery is needed most of all in Soviet Russia and there the new agreement opens the way. The Ort has undertaken also to supply thousands of Jews who have no relatives abroad, and the ‘cooperatives,’ which exist in almost every town. These must be helped by credit from a general fund. And according to our agreement we cannot get the money back before 5 years. By combining this relative-to-relative form of help with the older social form, and by allying them both with the enlarged colonization program, it is hoped that the economic reorganization of Jewish life in Russia will be advanced to a point much nearer to completion than it is at present,” Dr. Lvovitch continued.

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