Special Interview the Issue of Soviet Jewish Dropouts

Raphael Kotlowitz chairman of the immigration and Absorption Department of the Jewish Agency, warned that if American Jewry will continue to encourage noshrim (Soviet Jewish dropouts) by offering them aid, “they (American Jews) will be causing unwittingly a tremendous damage to the State of Israel ….”

In a special interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Kotlowitz, who is also a member of the Jewish Agency Executive, pointed out that since the Soviet Union opened its gates to Jewish emigration after 1967, only 150,000 Soviet Jews came to Israel out of the 220,000 who left the USSR.

“Obviously we are concerned over the increased number of noshrim,” Kotlowitz said. “We do not want to decide American Jewry’s policy (in regard to Soviet Jews), but we know that Israel’s future is of tremendous importance to the Jewish leadership and American Jewry at large. Israel cannot compete with the materialistic advantages of America when it comes to the issue of Russian Jewish immigration. Therefore, we hope that the leaders of American Jewry will accept Premier Menachem Begin’s plan which says that those who leave the Soviet Union with Israeli visas will be helped to settle in Israel (and not elsewhere).”

Kotlowitz said that Begin’s plan is applicable to all Soviet Jewish emigrants except to immediate relatives such as parents, children and spouses. “We are aware of the fact that Jewish leaders here are debating the issue. We, the Israelis, are anxiously awaiting the results of this debate,” he said, adding “Only if the Jewish leadership here would accept the Begin plan can we hope for a meaningful reduction in the number of noshrim.” He predicted that in that case the number of Soviet olim to Israel will sharply increase from the present 1500 to “2500 or maybe 3500 Soviet olim” a month.

Kotlowitz said that since October, 1978, the number of Jews leaving the USSR each month has been between 4000 and 5000, of which at least 66 percent are noshrim.

INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF OLIM

According to Kotlowitz, Israel is expected by the end of 1979 to have absorbed about 38,000 new immigrants from all over the world. “This is an increase of more than 50 percent,” he noted, pointing out that in the first 10 months of 1978 Israel received 20,422 olim, compared with 31,666 in the first 10 months of this year. “This increase in the number of olim is significant considering the acute housing shortage in Israel,” he said.

The increase in the number of new immigrants this year is due to an increase in the number of olim from Western countries — about 10,000 altogether — of which 3000 are Americans and Canadians. Kotlowitz also disclosed that there has been an increase in the number of olim from Middle East countries, but he declined to provide the numbers or cite the name of the countries.

As for the issue of yordim — Israelis who left Israel — Kotlowitz said that according to statistics he has, about 250,000 Israelis left Israel since the creation of the State. He said special efforts are under way now to help these former Israelis return to Israel.

NEXT STORY