MONTREAL (Nov. 18)
A resolution on Soviet Jewry, stressing agreement that American Jews should provide help to Jews who leave the Soviet Union and should undertake a commitment to see to it that as many Soviet Jews as possible go to Israel was adopted Friday by the 48th General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations, meeting here at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.
The resolution noted that leaders of the 24 largest communities which settle more than 85 percent of Soviet Jews in the United States met in Chicago on Oct. 21 under the auspices of the CJF and agreed on these two basic principles.
The resolution also noted that American Jewish communities have “a special challenge” to assure that Soviet Jews settling in the United States and Canada “are fully integrated into Jewish life, that their sense of Jewishness is enhanced and that they are encouraged to be actively involved in the Jewish community. “North American Jewish communities were also called upon to commit their best efforts “to quality resettlement at the lowest possible cost and in the process to meet this most important challenge: strengthening and preserving the Jewish people.”
DELEGATES SPLIT ON “DROP-OUTS” AMENDMENT
A move to introduce an amendment to the resolution dealing with “noshrim” -Soviet Jews who, upon arriving in Vienna, decide to go to countries other than Israel – was narrowly defeated after a spirited discussion among the delegates. The amendment had earlier been defeated in the resolutions committee.
The amendment, initiated by the United Jewish Community of Bergen County, N. J. urged the appropriate organizations involved in the resettlement of Soviet Jews to notify all Soviet Jewish emigrants who arrive in Vienna that they will receive support from those agencies for resettlement in Israel. However, the amendment added, those Soviet Jews seeking to resettle in the United States would have to rely on personal or family funds to do so, unless they have first-degree relatives in the United States. Under that circumstance, the amendment stated, they should receive special consideration.
The supporters of the amendment argued that the entire Soviet Jewry movement had been inspired by the State of Israel, that leaving the Soviet Union was a form of aliya since the emigrants had obtained visas by stating that they wanted to go to Israel and that, therefore, Israel should be their destination. The movement of Soviet Jews to countries other than Israel was contrary to the declared and accepted role of Israel as being central in Jewish life, the amendment’s supporters claimed.
Dr. Andrew Sklover of Teaneck, N. J., a member of the United Jewish Community of Bergen County and a leader in the campaign for the amendment, told the delegates: “we never told Moroccan or Iraqi Jews to settle either in Israel or the United States. Suddenly we give Soviet Jews the choice of settling either in Israel or the United States and add that we will provide Jewish funds to do this. We look upon yordim (Israelis who leave Israel) as pariahs and tell them to return to Israel. Why not Soviet Jews?”
DEPARTURE OF JEWS CALLED MOST IMPORTANT
Opponents of the amendment argued that the principle involved was to have Jews leave the Soviet Union where they are subjected to vitriolic anti-Semitic campaigns, harassed, intimidated and arrested and , where Jewish culture and the possibility of maintaining a Jewish consciousness and identity is all but disappearing. They argued further that the main task was not to dissipate energy by focussing on the issue of the point of destination but on the imperative need for departure. Diaspora Jewry must be committed and totally involved in advocating the right of Soviet Jews to leave and the right of those Soviet Jews who wish to remain to live as Jews but, the opponents of the amendment argued, diaspora Jewry should not and in fact cannot determine for an oppressed people where they should go. Soviet Jews should be encouraged to emigrate to Israel but in the final analysis, the operative principle should be freedom of choice.
Despite the defeat of the amendment, many supporters termed it a victory inasmuch as some 40 percent of the delegates voted for it and in view of the fact that it precipitated a round of discussion where the issues were laid bare, albeit without the fireworks that had been anticipated. By the time the issue of the noshrim had reached the convention floor, on the third day of the General Assembly the impetus for a heated debate had been dissipated.
Many delegates on both sides of the noshrim issue indicated privately, without going into specifics, that the economics of providing for resettlement and absorption by American Jewish communities was having an adverse effect on their budgets. Leon Dulzin, chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, noted this publicly in his address to the Assembly Thursday night when he said that the new dimension of the problem of the noshrim “is in its effect on your local budgets and the critical shortfall of cash that has resulted for the Jewish Agency.”
Similarly, Akiva Lewinsky, Jewish Agency Treasurer, said in another session that the funds spent in the United States on resettling and absorbing Soviet Jewish immigrants, “taken off the overseas allocations have reached such proportions that they affect the resources we need for those Russian immigrants to Israel who represent to date 60 percent of the newcomers.” (See related stories on P.3 and P.4 )
Many delegates indicated that the issue of the noshrim would continue to be a major topic of discussion in local American Jewish communities in the next period. One delegate observed wryly: “maybe soon all Soviet Jews leaving the Soviet Union will put into practice the age old saying-next year in Jerusalem -now.”