transmigrants

  • The Response of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to the Crisis of Soviet Jewish Émigré Dropouts (Noshrim) in the 1970s

    The JDC is an American Jewish organization that assists overseas Jewish communities in distress. It is responsible to “American Jewry” and those organizations that fund it. Bauer (1974, 19) argued that the JDC has been guided by its founding “pledge of impartiality – it steers clear of political involvements” and takes pride in being “probably the only really non-partisan organization in Jewish life.” This paper examines the role of the JDC in caring for Soviet émigrés who left on visas for Israel but chose to resettle elsewhere. They were known as “dropouts” (Noshrim in Hebrew). It also deals with the JDC policy toward recently settled Russian Jews who left Israel to resettle elsewhere. In its work with Soviet Jewish emigres did the JDC serve the interests of the Israeli government, its donors and or the emigres? Did the JDC abide by its pledge of impartiality? Did the JDC try to force them to resettle in Israel against their wishes? The paper focuses on the spring of 1976 when the number of dropouts outnumbered those resettling in Israel. This led to a joint committee of Israelis and American Jews to coordinate a response. The ‘freedom of choice’ debate ensued; should Soviet Jews resettle in Israel or have the freedom to choose where to resettle? The findings here are based on archival records in the JDC, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the CJF (Jewish federations) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC). The author also conducted interviews and reviewed secondary sources. The paper should contribute to a better understanding of the JDC and its past ties to Israel and the American Jewish community.

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