NEW YORK (Aug. 4)
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry announced Thursday a “major correction” on its previously released emigration figures for July, citing an inadvertent failure to subtract 320 non-Jewish emigres from the total figure of 1,698 Jews and non-Jews who left the Soviet Union.
The new figure of 1,378 Jewish emigres in July actually represents a slight decrease from a month earlier, rather than an eight-year monthly high, as NCSJ reported earlier this week.
According to the corrected figures, 136 of the departing Jews, or 7.8 percent, immigrated to Israel. Fifty Jews flew to Israel via Bucharest.
The 320 non-Jews who left the Soviet Union with Israeli documents included Pentecostal Christians, Baptists and nine dissidents, according to official Israeli sources.
The exodus of these groups on so-called Israeli “invitations,” apparently an initiative of the Soviet government, has vexed the efforts of Soviet Jewry activists to gather an accurate count of actual Soviet Jewish emigres.
IMPROVE COUNTING SYSTEM
According to a spokesman for NCSJ, the organization is now in a process “to see how the system (of counting) can be improved.
“Not only do we want to give absolutely accurate figures, but we don’t want to give in to the situation of giving the Soviets credit for something they did not deliver on,” he added.
Although July’s emigration figures now seem to reflect a decrease of 115 from June, “we will not draw an inference from a one-month drop.”
Israeli and State Department sources confirmed Wednesday that evangelical Christians and a small number of dissidents have been allowed to leave the Soviet Union on Israeli visas for quite some time. Their numbers have increased as Jewish emigration figures have risen in the past few months.
The Israeli source said his government “hasn’t raised the matter except call attention to the fact that it’s happening. Of course, we’re against the misuse of our documents.”
A Soviet Jewry activist who has been skeptical of official emigration figures said Wednesday that exact totals are necessary for policy-making.
If the revised figures are accurate, said Glenn Richter, national coordinator of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, “that means the Soviets are beginning to resist again and are not increasing” emigration.
The Israelis, he charged, “have thrown a veil” over the figures to avoid publicizing the evangelical Christian emigration, and NCSJ went along.
“NCSJ is not involved in a cover-up,” said Richter. “It’s just not sharp work.”
Based on their own calculations on the numbers of evangelical Christians and others leaving on Israeli documents, Richter’s organization and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews record lower numbers for June — 1,385 versus 1,493 — than does Israel or NCSJ.
NCSJ declined to respond to Richter’s charges. Figures kept by the NCSJ and the Israeli Embassy in Washington also differ slightly on the total number of Soviet Jewish emigres through June. According to NCSJ figures, 6,078 Jews left the Soviet Union. According to the embassy, of 6,200 emigres who left the Soviet Union bearing Israeli documents, 5,800 were Jews.
Neither NCSJ not the embassy could account for the discrepancy.
In Geneva, meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Committee for Immigration announced Wednesday that Jewish emigration totaled 1,639 in July. The total takes into account neither non-Jewish emigration nor the 50 Jews who traveled to Israel via Bucharest.
(JTA Geneva correspondent Tamar Levy contributed to this report.)