Two Orthodox Groups Differ on Dropout Issue, Jewish Agency Plan

Two Orthodox organizations, in separate statements, offered differing views on the issue of Soviet Jewish dropouts (noshrim) and the new Jewish Agency’s policy toward Soviet Jews who emigrate to countries other than Israel.

A statement by Rabbi Moshe Sherer, chairman of the World Agudath Israel Organization, and Rabbi Yehuda Abramowitz of Jerusalem, said the Jewish Agency’s policy of helping only those Soviet Jews who want to settle in Israel amounts to “coercion, an approach totally foreign to Jewish tradition.”

Their statement added that while Soviet Jews should choose Israel as their destination to avoid the “relentless forces of assimilation” in other countries, “there is no guarantee that Jews forced to settle in Israel will remain there.”

At the same time, the Rabbinical Council of America’s executive board adopted a resolution in support of the Jewish Agency policy and “in opposition to groups like HIAS and Satmar who are resisting suggestions made by the Jewish Agency and the government of Israel.”

WARNS AGAINST ‘TICKET TO ASSIMILATION’

The resolution, which was announced by Rabbi Sol Roth, president of the Rabbinical Council, stated, in part: “Encouraging Soviet Jews to go to the United States is shutting off movement of Soviet Jews out of the Soviet Union altogether which is dooming the committed Jews who wish to leave in order to live a more Jewish life in Israel. For most Soviet Jews, coming to the United States seems to be a one-way ticket to assimilation. Should Jewish charity dollars be used for this purpose? …

“The argument that people must be given freedom of choice is, in this context, nonsense. Jewish communal dollars can appropriately be used only to further the interests of the Jewish people not to undermine those interests. After tasting life in Israel, Soviet Jews, like everyone else, are free to leave.”

The two Aguda leaders, however, argued that “The primary goal of world Jewry should be to save Russian Jews by encouraging as speedy and large an exodus as possible from Russia. Any step that in any way can discourage and thereby diminish the flow of Immigration of Jews from Russia … is therefore unacceptable, quite apart from the traditional Jewish obligation to extend help to fellow Jews in need, under all circumstances.”

The Aguda leaders claimed that “The only way to encourage Russian Jews to opt for Israel and to remain there is to create a religious absorption atmosphere there, which would establish a spiritual bond between new immigrants and the Holy Land.”

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