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Emigration Down in February, but More Jews Going to Israel

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Soviet Jewish emigration declined for the second straight month, totaling 2,425 in February, according to figures provided Thursday by both the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews.

The two organizations reported that 308 of the Jews, or 12.7 percent, went to Israel, compared to 7.3 percent last month. UCSJ also reported that 549 non-Jews left the Soviet Union on Israeli visas in February.

A total of 2,796 Jews left the Soviet Union in January, and 3,652 emigrated the month before, according to the National Conference.

But National Conference spokesman Jerry Strober noted that February is the shortest month of the year, and the fewer number of days could partially account for the decline.

Strober also said he found it “interesting to note” a perceptible rise in the percentage of emigrating Soviet Jews opting to go to Israel.

This rise is significant in face of the thousands of Soviet Jews stranded in Ladispoli, near Rome, hoping to obtain permission to come to the United States as refugees.

The increase could indicate that a growing number of Soviet Jews are choosing to go to Israel, now that they are encountering difficulties going to the United States.

But “one month doesn’t make a trend,” Strober advised.

REFUSALS BASED ON SECRECY

Despite the drop in overall emigration in the last two months, Soviet Jewry activists are projecting that above 30,000 Jews will emigrate this year.

Pamela Cohen, president of the Union of Councils, said she does not think the decrease means fewer people are applying to emigrate because of the problems in Ladispoli.

“Those receiving refusals now are people who applied within the last year, before the situation in Rome became as publicized as now,” she said.

But Cohen also sounded a note of alarm. “We are very suspicious that the migration drop since December indicates that the Soviets have reinforced their previous behavior pattern,” she said.

She claimed that the Soviets have begun once again to deny some Soviet Jews exit visas, based on their involvement or the involvement of family members in work deemed to be a state secret.

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