New International Committee Formed on Dropout Problem

A solution to the growing problem of “neshira” — dropouts — among Jews leaving the Soviet Union, will be sought by a top level international Jewish committee whose task will be to “reach a consensus within world Jewry” on how to deal with the phenomenon and reduce its proportions.

The committee was mandated by the Presidium of the Brussels Conference on Soviet Jewry which ended its deliberations here some three weeks ago without resolving long-standing differences over how to deal with dropouts. Leon Dulzin, chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives, was authorized to appoint the committee’s members. He announced its composition to the WZO Executive at a meeting here this week.

The rate of dropouts — Jews who opt to settle in countries other than Israel after emigrating from the USSR — has soared to 85 percent in recent months. According to some foreign press reports, the Soviet authorities have warned Israel that if this high level continues, they will clamp down on Jewish emigration totally. The gravity of the situation was underlined when Chief Rabbi Yaacov Fishman of Moscow informed Israel’s Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren by telephone recently that the high proportion of Soviet Jewish emigres who choose not to go to Israel could endanger the entire emigration movement.

The Brussels Presidium expressed grave concern and asked the new committee to take “appropriate measures among world Jewry” to prevent the dropout phenomenon. Dulzin and others have insisted for years that this can be accomplished only if Jewish organizations abroad, notably in the U.S., cease all assistance, financial or otherwise, to the dropouts. But there is a strong body of opinion among Jewish leaders that world Jewry is obligated to aid any Jew who manages to leave a country of distress, regardless of where he chooses to resettle.

The members of the new committee, in addition to Dulzin, are: Howard Squadron, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Theodore Mann, immediate past chairman of the Conference; Seymour Lachman, chairman of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry; Charlotte Jacobson, chairman of the WZO Executive-American Section; Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress; Jack Spitzer, president of B’nai B’rith International; Claude Kelman, chairman of the French Committee for Soviet Jewry; Andrew Balcombe, chairman of the British Committee for Soviet Jewry; Izzy Liebler, chairman of the Australian Committee for Soviet Jewry; Rabbi Abraham Sottendorf, chairman of the Dutch Committee for Soviet Jewry; S. Z. Abramov, a leading Israeli activist for Soviet Jews and a vice president of the World Jewish Congress; Genia Intrator, chairman of the Canadian Committee for Soviet Jewry; and Rafael Kotlowitz, chairman of the WZO’s aliya department.

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