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Soviet Jewish Emigration in April Was Highest Since October 1979

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Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union continued to rise in April, reaching a level not seen since October 1979.

A total of 4,557 Soviet Jews emigrated, according to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. This represents a 7.5 percent increase over March, when 4,240 Jews left.

In Washington, the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews provided identical figures.

The total number of Jews who left the Soviet Union in the first four months of this year is 14,018. If that trend continues for the rest of the year, Soviet Jewish emigration will exceeded 42,000, more than twice the total for last year.

But the 1989 total through April is not yet equal to the level reached during the first four months of 1979, the benchmark year for Soviet Jewish emigration. Between January and April 1979, 16,273 Jews emigrated.

These numbers can be contrasted with 1966, the first year the Soviet Union allowed emigration, when 52 Jews were assisted by HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Of the total who emigrated in April, 516, or 11.3 percent, went to Israel, according to Israeli government figures. Most of those going to Israel went via direct flights from Bucharest, Romania, rather than through Vienna, where HIAS processes emigrants.

Only 80 of the 4,121 Jews arriving in Vienna opted to go to Israel, according to HIAS. There were also 950 non-Jews who emigrated on Israeli visas and arrived in Vienna to register with other organizations aiding emigrants.

National Conference Chairwoman Shoshana Cardin welcomed the April increase, but tempered the optimism a bit by observing that “many long-term refuseniks remain.

“Therefore, we urge the Soviet authorities to resolve these cases as quickly as possible and to fulfill their commitment to codify Soviet emigration law, so that the capriciousness of the present system can be changed,” she said.

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