Aliyah from North America, Ex-soviet Lands Up Sharply
Menu JTA Search

Aliyah from North America, Ex-soviet Lands Up Sharply

Download PDF for this date

Aliyah from the republics of the former Soviet Union rose by more than a third in September, fueling hopes that immigration is finally on the upswing.

September was, in fact, the best month for overall immigration to Israel this year, with a total of 7,585 newcomers arriving. That represents a 21 percent increase from August, when 6,281 people immigrated.

One of the biggest gains was in aliyah from North America, which reached a four-year high, with 418 immigrants arriving in September. That brought North American aliyah for the year to 1,449, a 43 percent increase over the same period last year.

There was also a large increase in immigration from India. A total of 113 Indian immigrants have arrived this year, a 30 percent increase over 1991.

Jewish Agency officials attributed the increased interest in aliyah among India’s 6,000 Jews to the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel earlier this year.

A total of 6,725 immigrants arrived here from the formerly Soviet republics, bringing immigration from that region for the year to 43,936, according to the Soviet Research Bureau of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry in New York.

September was also a banner month for immigration of Jews from the former Soviet republics to the United States. According to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in New York, 6,073 arrived under the U.S. government’s refugee program, bringing the total for the 1992 fiscal year, which ended Wednesday, to a record 46,870.

“What we experienced this fiscal year is part of the largest movement of Jewish refugees to this country since the passage of the National Origins Act of 1924,” said Martin Kesselhaut, president of HIAS.

In Israel, immigration officials are optimistic that the steady rise in aliyah during the past few months is a trend that will continue.

Jewish Agency Chairman Simcha Dinitz predicted at a news briefing last week that some 70,000 immigrants would arrive by the end of this year, and that as many as 120,000 would immigrate in 1993.

The rise in aliyah is due in large part to political and economic tensions in the Soviet successor states, especially in the Moslem areas, according to Baruch Gur, head of the Jewish Agency’s Soviet Jewry department.

“Due to ethnic tensions and the threat of war, more Jews are trying to leave the republics, and we have stepped up our efforts to get them out,” he said.

Gur said the situation in the Moslem republic of Tajikistan is “almost at a state of anarchy, with fighting on the streets and people carrying weapons.”

A direct flight carried Jews out of Tajikistan last week, and more are scheduled, he said.

The Jewish Agency official also spoke of tensions in Uzbekistan and the ongoing ethnic unrest in Azerbaijan. He said there is “growing fear in Georgia, where children are being kidnapped, and continuing problems in Moldova and Yugoslavia.”

In the war-ravaged former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the vast majority of Jews have been evacuated from the capital of Sarajevo, but a small number apparently remain and now wish to come to Israel.

A six-member delegation from the community spent Rosh Hashanah in Israel and met with Jewish Agency officials about further rescue efforts. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, meanwhile, is providing assistance to the community, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency.

Economic concerns have also played a role in the aliyah recovery, said Gur of the Jewish Agency. “We see increasing numbers of people making aliyah from small towns in Russia and the Ukraine, where things are quiet politically, but difficult economically.”

Similarly, the poor state of the U.S. economy is said to be a leading factor behind the jump in aliyah from North America.

According to Akiva Werber, director of the North American section of the Jewish Agency, “the recession in the U.S. has motivated a lot of people to make aliyah. People are saving less money than they used to, and many professionals have lost their jobs. The financial security that kept them in the U.S. just isn’t there anymore.”

Werber stressed, however, that most North Americans consider aliyah for many years before taking the plunge.

“The vast majority of those who recently immigrated have wanted to try living in Israel for a long time. The bad economy and the growing crime rate in many cities have simply acted as a catalyst,” he explained.

“For some of these immigrants,” he added, “America is no longer the `goldeneh medinah,'” the golden land.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund