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Emigrating Soviet Jews Are Targets for Muggers Seeking Quantity of Cash

Jews who are preparing to leave the Soviet Union have become targets of robbers and even killers because they hold large sums of cash, according to a report in Ma’ariv.

The paper reported that three Jews were brutally murdered last Friday in the northern Caucasus region, near the Turkish and Iranian border, and that since then a family in the region that was about to leave for Israel was beaten by thugs who planned to rob them.

Ma’ariv quotes Jews in the area as saying that attacks against families leaving for Israel have become rampant, since the Jews sell their belongings and keep comparatively large amounts of cash on them.

The robberies and murders appear to be largely the result of the abysmal economic situation in the Soviet Union, according to Soviet Jewry activists.

Lynn Singer, executive director of the Long Island Committee for Soviet Jews, quoted Leonid Stonov, a former refusenik in Moscow who has received permission to leave, as saying that the murders were not anti-Semitic acts but criminal.

Myrna Shinbaum, director of the Soviet Jewry Project of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said, “One just has to look very carefully into what the motives were.”

Shinbaum maintains ongoing contact with members of the Soviet Jewish Va’ad, the umbrella organization of Soviet Jews. There have been several incidents of murder of Jews recently she said, “but they were not specifically anti-Semitic.”

The fact has been debated on a regular basis. One questionable situation took place May 2 in Andizhan, in Uzbekistan, where Jews were killed and about 16 Jewish shops and homes burned by a reportedly huge Uzbek mob, said to have been enraged when a planned soccer match did not take place.

A Jewish activist in Leningrad told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the killers had prepared a list of the addresses of Jews in Andizhan.

However, Shinbaum said the targets were from a number of ethnic groups, including Armenians and Russians.

That incident was of sufficient import that U.S. Secretary of State James Baker discussed it with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.

Shinbaum said the ADL will, nevertheless, continue to confirm the information about murders of Jews with the Va’ad.

(JTA reporter Susan Birnbaum in New York contributed to this article.)

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