Jewish Agency Seeks Ways to Win over Soviet Dropouts

The Jewish Agency stepped up its campaign to win over “noshrim” (dropouts) in several directions. This week, a group of 16 noshrim presently living in Rome came here, paying for the journey out of their own pockets, to learn about Israel at first hand under the guidance of the Agency’s Soviet immigrants department.

Most of them are academically trained people in their 20s and 30s, and their program concentrates on universities and science-based industries where they are introduced to Soviet olim who have found employment and fulfillment in Israel.

Leah Slovin, director of the Soviet immigrants department, noted that of late the period required for the noshrim to reside in Rome while their visas to the U.S. are processed has been reduced from four months to one. This obviously gives the Jewish Agency less opportunity to arrange get-acquainted tours of Israel for those who are interested. Nevertheless, this week’s group of 16 were selected from more than 100 applicants.

There have been two previous such groups, and the feedback shows that they were highly successful. Participants returned to Rome with accounts of what they had seen and learned that were considerably more favorable than the impressions of Israel and life here that are widespread among the noshrim.

THINKING OF CHANGING DESTINATIONS

According to a Jewish Agency spokesman there are “already initial signs” that some of the people involved are actively thinking of changing their intended destination from the U.S. to Israel. The tour for this week’s group includes, for the first time, a day at “Tekoah” a new settlement in Judaea on the West Bank, peopled mainly by Soviet olim. A meeting has also been arranged between the group and several “Prisoners of Zion.”

The Agency has also completed a course this week for prospective emissaries who are to be sent to Vienna and Rome to work among the Jewish emigres from the USSR., The course was given by Prof. Yosef Topinski, a psychology professor at Bar Ilan University, himself a Soviet immigrant. Topinski spent a year in the U.S. doing research among noshrim there. His academic specialty is communication.

Some 65 recent olim from Russia participated in the course, and out of these, the Agency’s Soviet immigrants department will select those most suitable to be sent on this form of delicate and difficult mission. At the present time, there are six such emissaries in Vienna and three in Rome.

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