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Shamir Predicts 1 Million Jews Will Be Leaving the Soviet Union

October 31, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir predicted Sunday that about a million Jews will leave the Soviet Union as a result of the relaxation of Soviet emigration restrictions.

He did not say over what time period the mass exodus might take place, but he expressed hope that most of the emigres would come to Israel.

Shamir spoke to a delegation of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, headed by Sylvia Hassenfeld, JDC’s president.

The government has been busy rounding up volunteers to assist the new immigrants if and when the expected influx begins.

The social absorption department at the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption says it has an active file of more than 2,000 names of volunteers.

In addition, the department’s head, Arieh Korath, has written to all immigrant associations in Israel, asking for updated lists of people who would volunteer.

According to Korath, the volunteers will play an important role in the successful absorption of immigrants. They will accompany the newcomers through the first stages of acclimatization in their new country.

They will work as “contact people” with banks, schools, the Histadrut health-care agency and other giant bureaucracies that often overwhelm new immigrants with red tape.


The JDC delegation is visiting Israel to mark the worldwide relief agency’s 75th anniversary.

Hassenfeld told reporters here that the Soviet Jewish transit center at Ladispoli, near Rome, will be disbanded soon and the emigres there would all receive U.S. visas.

Since Oct. 1, Soviet Jews have been able to obtain U.S. refugee visas only at the American Embassy in Moscow. Those who leave the Soviet Union on Israeli visas can no longer “drop out” in Vienna and pick up their American papers in Rome. All of those holding Israeli visas are required to go to Israel.

Hassenfeld said JDC is also helping Jews who remain in the Soviet Union by establishing community centers, libraries and synagogues there.

In addition, JDC is working with non-Jewish communities in Israel. It will soon open a day-care center for the elderly in the Druse village of Jatt, according to Dr. Yitzhak Brick, head of its organization for the elderly.

JDC already finances a day-care center for the elderly in the Israeli Arab village of Taiba, jointly with Mifal Hapayis, the Israeli national lottery fund.

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