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Agency Official Says Soviet Dropouts Will Continue Despite New Policy

July 7, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Jewish Agency official defended Israel’s new policy with respect to Jews leaving the Soviet Union, but said he did not believe it would solve the dropout problem.

Uri Gordon, head of the agency’s immigration and absorption department, said Soviet Jews do not know enough about Israel or Judaism, and cannot learn as long as there are no diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and Moscow.

According to Jewish Agency sources, during the first three months of this year, every Jew who emigrated from the city of Kharkov with an Israeli visa went to the United States.

The dropout rate from Kiev, Odessa and Minsk was 95 percent, and agency officials told reporters they doubted the situation would improve in the near future.

Gordon said he approved of the Cabinet’s decision of June 19, which stated that Israel would issue Israeli visas only to those Jews committed to settling in Israel when they leave the USSR.

To ensure that policy, Soviet Jews will have to pick up their visas at the Israeli Embassy in Bucharest, Romania, from where they will be flown directly to Tel Aviv.

The policy is aimed at reducing the dropout phenomenon — Jews who leave the Soviet Union with Israeli visas but settle in Western countries, chiefly the United States.

Gordon urged Israelis to write letters to Soviet Jews describing life in Israel, so that the potential emigres will not think only in terms of settling in the United States.

He also said efforts should be made to take advantage of the more liberal policies of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to teach Soviet Jews more about their heritage.

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