Israeli and U.S. Jewish Leaders Reach No Conclusions on Drop-out Issue

A meeting of top Israeli and diaspora Jewish leaders here last night failed to reach any conclusions on how to deal with the phenomenon of “neshira” (drop-outs), Jews who leave the Soviet Union and opt to settle in countries other than Israel. The meeting was chaired by Premier Menachem Begin and Leon Dulzin, chairman of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization Executives. Later, Max Fisher, chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “a variety of approaches” to the problem were proposed. He said that his position, endorsed by the others at the meeting, was to avoid reaching any conclusions before a great deal more study has been made of the situation.

Accordingly, the diaspora Jewish leaders, most of them heads of major Jewish organizations; agreed to consider several proposals, confer among themselves, and consult again with the Israeli leadership next fall. Fisher told the JTA that there was a consensus on the need to reduce the rising rate of “neshira” which is now close to 70 percent and to encourage more Soviet Jewish emigrants to make their homes in Israel. “That would be good for them, good for Israel and good for the Jewish people,” Fisher said.

One approach, proposed by Begin, which is under consideration, would have HIAS and the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the two American agencies assisting Soviet Jews who immigrate to Western countries, limit their aid to those emigrants who have close relatives in the West. Those who do not would be denied aid and would be expected to go to Israel. That idea was promptly endorsed by Dulzin. Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin said it would make “some contribution” toward reversing the drop-out trend.

DULZIN POSITION NOT ACCEPTED BY U.S. JEWS

Dulzin, who has frequently referred to the dropout problem as a “calamity” for Israel, had said

Dulzin said that if Begin’s proposal was accepted it would reduce the dropout rate. “But time is working against us,” he warmed, referring to the decision to wait until next fall for further talks. He implicitly criticized the government for not taking “a clear stand” earlier when the drop-out rate was lower and easier to deal with. He said he did not fear a clash with the American Jewish leadership if that was necessary to cut down “neshira.”

A number of American Jewish leaders attending the Jewish Agency Assembly here this week made it clear in private conversations with the JTA that they would oppose measures to restrict the work of HIAS and the JDC on grounds that every Jew deserves the right of free choice as to where he wants to live. If he chooses to live in the U.S., the Jewish community there has a responsibility to offer him initial material assistance, they said. Several United Jewish Appeal leaders pointed out that the tradition of assistance was deeply imbedded in the American Jewish ethos. Nat Kameny, a prominent UJA and Federation leader from Bergen County, N.J. argued that Soviet Jews coming to the U.S. were no less entitled to help than the thousands of “yordim” — Jews who emigrate from Israel — who have been helped over the years to make homes in the U.S.

NEXT STORY