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As Aliyah Continues to Plummet, Jewish Agency Focuses on Youth

May 5, 1992
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In an effort to bolster sagging aliyah from the former Soviet republics, the Jewish Agency has announced a new, youth-oriented strategy.

“We will now stress innovative programs for promoting aliyah among young adults and teenagers,” Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the agency’s Executive, said after his recent trip to the region.

During the first four months of 1992, aliyah from the former Soviet republics has dropped an alarming 60 percent from the same period last year.

From Jan. 1 to April 30, a total of 20,079 Jews immigrated here from the republics, compared to 50,146 during the same period last year, according to figures compiled by the Soviet Jewry Research Bureau of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry in New York.

In April, a total of 5,629 people immigrated to Israel, including 4,696 from the Soviet successor states. This represents a 10 percent decrease in overall aliyah from March, when 6,274 olim came, among them 4,913 Soviets.

Total aliyah in April was only a third of the April 1991 total, while the number of olim from the former Soviet republics was just over a quarter of the 1991 figure.

In New York, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society reported that 3,011 Jews from the former Soviet republics immigrated to the United States in April, bringing the total for the first seven months of the 1992 fiscal year to 26,184.

Experts agree that difficult economic conditions in Israel coupled with new property ownership laws in the former Soviet republics have led to the slowdown in aliyah.

Since the end of last year, when immigration statistics began their downward slide, aliyah officials have been scurrying for a solution.

Realizing that Israel’s high rate of unemployment has dissuaded many adults from making aliyah, the Jewish Agency has decided to focus its energies on encouraging immigration among the younger generation.

This summer, for example, the agency will sponsor summer camps throughout the republics. About 6,000 youths are expected to attend the camps, whose emphasis will be Jewish culture, Hebrew-language courses and aliyah.

“In what seems to be a growing trend, many parents are preparing their children for aliyah, although they, themselves, have no immediate plans to immigrate,” said agency spokesman Yehuda Weinraub.

“Between 500 and 600 teen-agers from the republics will come on aliyah this summer without their parents. Most will go to Youth Aliyah boarding schools or university programs,” he said.

“These parents haven’t given up on aliyah,” said Dinitz, “but there will not be a major break-through until economic conditions in Israel improve. In the meantime, they are sending their children so that they, at least, will have a brighter future.”

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