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Soviet Emigration Sets Record, Surpassing Total for All of 1979

November 2, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

For the third time in a row, more Jews emigrated from the Soviet Union last month than in any other previous month on record.

A total of 9,450 Jews left the Soviet Union in October, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry reported Wednesday, bringing the figure for the year so far to 51,336. That tops the benchmark total for 1979, which was 51,320.

Of the October total, 1,565 Jews, or 16.5 percent, went to Israel, compared to 12.3 percent the previous month. It is not yet known if the increase in aliyah can be attributed to changes in U.S. refugee policy that went into effect Oct. 1.

Since that date, Jews leaving the Soviet Union on Israeli visas have not been eligible to come to the United States as refugees. Those who want to settle in the United States must now apply for American visas at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

The October figure, which represents a 12 percent increase over the previous month, now-replaces the September and August numbers as the largest monthly emigration total recorded since the National Conference’s Soviet Jewry Research Bureau began tabulating emigration statistics in 1968.

Prior to August, the highest monthly figure had occurred in October 1979, when 4,746 Jews left the Soviet Union. But 10 years later, the monthly emigration total is nearly twice as large.

Back in 1979, nearly all Jews who left the Soviet Union arrived in Vienna. Today, while the majority still use that route, others are leaving by way of Bucharest, Romania, and Budapest, Hungary. Almost all of those who use those points of transfer go directly to Israel.


Meanwhile, some 285,000 Soviet Jews have taken the first step toward emigrating by requesting sponsors from abroad, the World Jewish Congress reported.

“As a result of changes in American immigration procedures which went into effect on Oct. 1, nearly half of those who have requested sponsors may settle in Israel,” the WJC said.

Commenting on the October emigration figure, Shoshana Cardin, chairwoman of the National Conference, said, “We welcome the fifth substantial consecutive monthly increase in Jewish emigration.”

Nevertheless, Cardin cautioned, “we remain deeply concerned over the continued refusal of permission to those remaining long-term refuseniks and existence of the category of ‘poor relative.’ “

The description applies to those who have family members who refuse to sign a necessary waiver of financial obligation.

Cardin expressed hope that “the matter of human rights,” as well as “the right to experience and learn about Jewish heritage and religion in the Soviet Union,” would once again be discussed when President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev meet for a summit in December.

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