What is it about?

In 1966, Soviet leader Alexei Kosygin stated that Soviet citizens had the right to emigrate for family reunification. This sparked the campaign for Soviet Jewish emigration movement, which adopted the slogan “Let My People Go.” Yet, despite the biblical symbolism, there was a significant controversy about their final destination, with those opting for the West known as “drop-outs” (noshrim). There were intense debates between those Jewish Diaspora leaders, particularly in the United States, who stressed the democratic right of “freedom of choice,” and the Israeli leadership. When the Soviets drastically reduced emigration in the 1980s, the drop-out phenomenon (neshira) was blamed. In 1983 Morris B. Abram became chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and reversed the accepted American Jewish approach. He developed a close friendship with Australian Jewish leader, Isi Leibler. Both men believed Soviet Jews should migrate to Israel. In the late 1980s, the United States ended the refugee status of Soviet Jews, reducing its financial support.

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Why is it important?

As a result if the changed policy of US government in the 1980s, supported by the American Jewish leadership, one million Russians migrated to Israel in the 1990s. This article focuses on this global debate over drops outs and illustrates the importance of cooperation between American and non- American actors in global Jewish politics.

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This page is a summary of: Conflicting visions: debates relating to Soviet Jewish emigration in the global arena, East European Jewish Affairs, May 2017, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/13501674.2017.1396861.
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