JERUSALEM (Jul. 1)
Immigration from the former Soviet Union rose slightly in June from the May figures, which constituted a three-year low.
But the total figures for the first half of 1992 showed a full two-thirds decline from 1991: 27,330 this year versus 86,667 the year before.
Reflecting this, the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency on Wednesday approved a revised 1992 budget, which assumes the immigration of 60,000 Jews this year from Russia and the other republics of the former Soviet Union.
The original 1992 budget, drafted last fall, assumed an aliyah of 170,000 for this year.
June’s aliyah statistics revealed 4,812 people had immigrated to Israel, among them 3,890 from the former Soviet republics. That reflected a 16 percent rise in Russian aliyah from July, when only 3,361 came from the various republics.
In New York, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society reported that 2,940 Jews from the former Soviet Union arrived in the United States in June under the government’s refugee program, bringing the total for the 1992 fiscal year to 33,172.
In May, immigration to the United States exceeded aliyah from the republics for the first time in two years. But the trend reversed itself last month, when the U.S. immigration numbers dropped by 18.5 percent.
Most observers blame this year’s dismal aliyah figures on Israel’s economic difficulties, particularly the failure to create new jobs.
“Until potential olim see proof of concrete improvements in the job situation, most will stay where they are,” said Debra Lipson, spokeswoman for the Soviet Jewry Zionist Forum.
“While some immigrants will still decide to come, especially from places like Moldova, where there is continuing unrest, many will wait back there and see,” she said.
CJF LOAN PROGRAM WORKING WELL
Participants at the Board of Governors meetings were encouraged by Labor leader Yitzhak Rabin’s promise to “shift the country’s national priorities” toward growth and job creation.
The downward revision of anticipated aliyah is expected to cut roughly $25 million from the Jewish Agency’s deficit for this year, which was originally projected at $80 million.
Additional reductions in the aliyah infrastructure of $12 million and $23 million in savings yet to be allocated are expected to bring the deficit to $20 million and the budget to $621 million.
Additional expenses for African immigrants will offset much of the savings resulting from the decreased flow of immigrants from Eastern Europe, according to Jewish Agency officials.
While complete responsibility for the Ethiopian immigrants who arrived with Operation Solomon was originally supposed to be transferred to the Israeli government at the end of May, the timetable has been extended through August.
This will add $28 million to the Jewish Agency’s expenses for the Ethiopian Jews, which are expected to total a quarter billion dollars.
That is on top of the roughly $1.5 billion budgeted for the multi-year Operation Exodus campaign for Soviet Jews. Phase II of that campaign will be formally launched soon.
“We will switch into high gear, possibly with the assistance of Mr. Rabin, who has offered to lead off the campaign on his first visit to the USA,” Mendel Kaplan, chairman of the agency’s Board of Governors told reporters Wednesday in a telephone conference call to the United States.
Kaplan also said that the program of loans to new immigrants guaranteed by the American Jewish community federations has taken effect and is working well.
Seventy percent of the new immigrants are taking out the loans, at average of $1,000 apiece. Roughly $1 billion has been made available for the loans under a program coordinated by the Council of Jewish Federations.
(Contributing to this report was JTA staff writer Larry Yudelson in New York.)