Jewish emigration from the republics of the former Soviet Union was up in August, indicating that the downward trend registered earlier this year may finally have reversed itself.
A total of 5,009 emigres from the republics arrived in Israel during August, representing a 2.8 percent increase over July. And another 4,684 arrived in the United States, the highest number for any single month this year.
The August figure for the United States, reported by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in New York, brings immigration to date for the 1992 fiscal year to 40,797 – well ahead of last year. As many as 6,000 more may arrive before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
Emigration is up partly because of ethnic unrest in several regions of the former Soviet Union.
About 450 Jews from strife-ridden Moldova immigrated to Israel in August. More than 700 Moldovan Jews have arrived here since late July, and 200 more were expected within the next week.
There has also been an upsurge of aliyah lately from the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. Some 800 Jews from these predominantly Moslem republics made their way to Israel last month.
The fighting in what was once Yugoslavia has also boosted aliyah. Last month, 100 Jews arrived from the region, bringing the total to 600. Another 200 Yugoslav children have been placed in Youth Aliyah villages.
Overall, 6,366 people immigrated to Israel in August, bringing the aliyah total for the year to 46,250. The August figure was actually a 3.1 percent decrease from the total for July, but still way ahead of the 4,812 figure for June.
While aliyah experts are encouraged by the latest figures, they caution it is too early to start talking about a recovery.
“There has been a small increase in the past two months, and I expect it to continue through September,” said Baruch Gur, who heads the Jewish Agency department dealing with the Soviet successor states.
“Summer is traditionally the time when people come on aliyah. School is out and the weather is better,” he explained. “Beyond that, we are seeing a small rise in the number of Jews coming from small places: certain remote areas in Russia, small towns in the Ukraine.”
Gur credited the increase, especially in the Moslem republics, to a number of things. “Better outreach and Jewish education are certainly factors, and so are the economic difficulties over there,” he said.
“People are starting to realize that things don’t seem to be working out in the republics. I sense the beginning of disillusionment with the economic and political situation.”
Uri Gordon, who heads the Jewish Agency’s Immigration and Absorption Department, remarked that while Israel is doing everything in its power to assist Jews from distressed countries, “I would be equally happy to welcome Jews from Los Angeles.”
“Israel should be seen as a place to come to out of choice, not just as a refuge from strife,” he said.