NEW YORK (Dec. 20)
At least 10 Soviet Jewish families from Moscow, all long-term refuseniks, have received exit visas to Israel this week, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry reported. The news, which the NCSJ said it sees as a “small but significant reversal in annual emigration trends,” marks only the second time in over eight months that Jews from the Soviet capital were granted permission to emigrate. The first visas issued in that city came in November, when 12 Muscovite Jews were permitted to leave.
Included in the report, and being confirmed by the NCSJ, is news than an additional 30 families from Tbilisi and one family from kaunus, in Lithuania, have also received exit permits. All are long-term refuseniks, who have sought emigration to Israel for more than eight years.
Although the identities and the size of each family are unknown at this time, the NCSJ noted that the total number could well surpass the monthly emigration average of 73 which has distinguished 1984 as the “worst year for emigration in nearly 20 years.” To date, only 805 Soviet Jews have been permitted to emigrate to Israel.
A spokesperson for the NCSJ suggested that the “sudden increase, most welcome by those involved, may be intended as a gesture of good will by the Soviets” in advance of the meetings scheduled for January between Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. He added it is “hopefully the first step in a trend which will continue well beyond those sessions.”