JERUSALEM (Oct. 17)
Jewish Agency Executive Chairman Leon Dulzin predicted a breakthrough in the plight of Soviet Jewry. He also described a growing “Zionist movement” in the Soviet Union.
“The Jewish people will live to see a great mass immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel,” Dulzin said at a briefing Monday to 227 American Jews from 45 communities who are participating in the United Jewish Appeal’s Presidents Mission.
The mission, which began last Thursday with a three-day exploration of Vienna’s Jewish community and history, concludes here Thursday evening with an address at the Knesset by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Premier Shimon Peres, who spoke to the mission Sunday night, also touched briefly on the plight of Soviet Jewry. He said the Kremlin was seeking to “score points” in public opinion by trying to change its image regarding Soviet Jews. At the same time, he reaffirmed Israel’s continued commitment to seek the free flow of Jews from the Soviet Union.
Jewish emigration from the USSR has come to a near-standstill compared to the thousands who were permitted to leave in the late 1970′s.
Dulzin said that of the estimated three million Jews in the Soviet Union, about 260,000 have been allowed to emigrate in the last 13 years. Of that group, he said, some 170,000 have gone to Israel.
According to Dulzin, “A big Zionist movement has come to life in the Soviet Union” where, he said, hundreds of people were engaged in the study of Hebrew. Regarding efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewish emigration, Dulzin declared: “I do believe we will win. I have no doubt about it.”
While Dulzin indicated “our great struggle is for Soviet Jewry,” he spoke with pride of Israel’s efforts on behalf of the Ethiopian Jews. He said that while Ethiopian Jews had encountered various problems in adjusting to Israel and its laws, these difficulties were part of the democratic process of the Jewish State.
Haim Aharon, chairman of the Jewish Agency,s department of immigration and absorption, spoke of the problems between the Ethiopian Jews and Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. “It is not a matter of choice or civil rights, but a specific religious problem,” he told the American Jewish leaders in a briefing.
He said that Israeli religious law stipulates that prior to marriage one must prove “you are a Jew, your wife-to-be is a Jew and that you lived as a Jew.”