Precipitous Decline in Soviet Jewish Emigration

There has been a decline of more than 60 percent in the number of Soviet Jews allowed to emigrate during May and June compared to the same period last year, Jerry Goodman, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, said here in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

He said the decline was due to an initiative started last year by Soviet authorities to stem the tide of Jewish emigration. The Soviets, Goodman explained, tightened the requirements for receiving exit visas on the basis of having relatives outside the USSR. Consequently, only 15,500 Jews have left the Soviet Union so for this year compared with 25,000 during the same period in 1979.

Goodman also said the decline in the number of Soviet Jewish emigrants is not connected with international development – such as the tension that has developed between the Soviet Union and the West as a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan – but rather with developments inside the Soviet Union. He said there are indications that the Soviets are undertaking a propaganda campaign to discourage Jews from seeking exit visas after they realized that too many Jews in small communities are eager to emigrate, a trend that Soviet authorities claim can create economic and political difficulties.

Goynor Jocabson. executive vice president of HIAS, also said the decline in the number of Jews allowed to leave the Soviet Union began before the Afghanistan crisis and that new restrictions on the issuance of exit visas went into effect during the last six months of 1979. He said that many applications for exit visas were rejected because their foreign sponsors were not “first-degree relatives.”

To illustrate the sharp decline in the issuance of exit visas, Jacobson noted that about 1000 Jews residing in Odersa were granted exit visas in April 1979 but only 30 visas were granted last April. Jacobson said that of the 51,294 Jews who left the USSR in 1979, 29,000 came to the United States.

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