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Jacobson Soviet Red Tape Stems Tide of Growing Jewish Emigration

January 3, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Widely publicized increases in Soviet Jewish emigration are diverting attention from a mushrooming backlog of exit applications and procedural abuses, says Charlotte Jacobson, chairwoman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry’s Research Bureau.

“The true measure of oppression in the soviet Union is the number of Jews trying to get out, not the number who make it,” she said. “To the best of our knowledge, there are now over 180,000 active letters of invitation sent to Soviet Jews and that number is growing every day. Viewed this way, we see that, if anything, the situation will be getting worse.”

Mrs. Jacobson said she has just obtained information which indicates officials are altering the application procedure to both discourage applicants and to artificially reduce their number.

“In Odessa, in a part of the city which is served by a local ovir (emigration) office, there is a backlog of 1000 applicants. But the office is open only three days a week and processes only 60 applications on each of its service days,” she charged.


The Research Bureau, she said, “has found a number of other glaring examples of Soviet intransigence. In Bendery (in the Moldavian Republic) the ovir accepts applications once a week and has a three-month processing backlog. The office in Mogilev-Podolsk (in the Ukraine) is so overloaded that it was closed for all of December.”

In the Byelorussian city of Bobruisk, Mrs. Jacobson said, the ovir does not accept letters of invitation which do not specify the relationship between the Israeli and Soviet relatives. Even if they are correct, the invitations are accepted only once a week from people who passess the latest internal passport. Many Jews and non-Jews still have the older, outdated passports.

Applicants to the Bobruisk office have recently encountered an additional hurdle on their road to freedom–those who are unemployed must produce a letter from a police officer attesting to their character. “Each additional contact with police in the application process exposes people to unnecessary problems and delays, “she said. “Since a person is liable to be fired from a job after applying to leave, this requirement affects just about everyone.”

The Research Bureau estimated that about 28,000 Jews left the Soviet Union by the end of 1978, the highest figure since 35,000 left in 1973.

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