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Survey of Soviet Olim Reveals 69 Percent Faced Anti-semitism

A survey of recent Soviet immigrants in Israel has revealed that 69 percent encountered some form of anti-Semitism while in the Soviet Union.

The study, commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and conducted in August in Jerusalem by Hebrew University student Yaakov Khazanov, showed that the majority of the incidents took place in Moscow and Leningrad.

Those cities are the main centers of organized anti-Semitic movements such as Pamyat.

The Moscow City Council, meanwhile, has just set up a special subcommittee to deal with anti-Semitism, in part a response to the recent visit of Abraham Foxman, national director of ADL, and Melvin Salberg, ADL’s national chairman.

This special subcommittee will report its findings to the Soviet legislature, according to Myrna Shinbaum, director of ADL’s Soviet Jewry Project.

The lowest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the Soviet Union was reported in the Baltic states, Trans-Caucasus and the Ukraine.

One reason, according to the ADL study, is that the regional autonomy movements have strongly opposed anti-Semitism.

These nationalist movements are eager to foster a pro-Western, pro-democracy image, and they want to disassociate themselves from Moscow’s policy, which is suspected of supporting or tolerating anti-Semitic organizations, the study said.

Another explanation cited was that the conflict with other ethnic groups overshadows the “Jewish problem” in the republics.

A total of 467 incidents were reported by the 500 people polled.

Verbal attacks and the distribution of anti-Semitic leaflets accounted for 56.2 percent of the total.

A common motif in the verbal assaults was “Go to your Israel,” accompanied by insults such as “Dirty Jews.” These remarks were often made in food lines, the study says, along with statements like “Jews are to blame for the shortage.”

Many of the people interviewed for the study said the verbal attacks took place “constantly,” and thus they did not pay much attention to them.

The harassment of children accounted for another 15 percent of the reported incidents, as did graffiti and property damage.

Many interviewees said that the insults their children were subjected to at school had a profound impact, and were one of the main reasons they decided to leave the Soviet Union.

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