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Soviets Refuse to Allow Ilyinka Families of Emigrate to Israel: Claim They Are Not Really Jewish

Moscow authorities have refused to allow 80 families from the Soviet village of Ilyinka to emigrate to Israel on the grounds that they are not really Jewish, the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, has learned. The families are descendants of Russians who were converted to Judaism several centuries ago.

Bronx Borough President Robert Abrams, Conference chairman, explained that the authorities had earlier permitted the emigration of eight families from Ilyinka, which is located in the Voronezh region 1400 miles from Moscow. However, in the past year, 109 invitations from relatives in Israel have not been delivered.

In an effort to isolate the villagers, Soviet activists Vladimir Slepak and Anatoly Sharansky were barred from visiting the village earlier this summer. The Ilyinka Jews are forced to have their internal passports stamped with a false entry stating that they are Russian nationals since they have Russian surnames.

According to Moscow activists, Abrams said the Ilyinka villagers observe Shabbat and Jewish holidays, bake matzot on Passover and give their children Biblical names. On the birth of a baby boy, the child is taken 650 miles to Dagestan for circumcision. The villagers originally lived elsewhere in the Soviet Union, but were forced to escape from their homes when threatened with pogroms in 1913.