In anticipation of an influx of Soviet Jewish immigrants, HIAS plays an important role in a successful campaign to convince Washington to exercise the “parole statute” of the Immigration and Nationality Act, thus enabling an unlimited number of Soviet Jews to enter the U.S. on an emergency basis.
The USSR permits 13,022 Jews to emigrate – over 12 times as many as in the previous year.
At a world conference on Soviet Jewry in Belgium, participants vow to intensify their protests on behalf of Jews in the Soviet Union. The conference closes with the singing of the American spiritual, “Let My People Go,” which becomes a slogan of the American Soviet Jewry movement. The American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry is reorganized as the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. The American Jewish Committee presents U.S. Ambassador to the UN George H. W. Bush with more than 100,000 petitions calling upon the Soviet government to allow Jews to emigrate.
- Jewish emigrants from the USSR: 13,022
- Soviet Jewish immigrants to US: 214
- Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel: 12,839
In March, 150 Jews from nine cities demand the right to emigrate by staging a hunger strike in Moscow at the Presidium of USSR Supreme Soviet. Throughout the year, other hunger strikes and demonstrations are held, such as those carried out by Georgian Jews in Moscow in July and by Jews at the site of the 1941 Babi Yar Massacre in Kyiv in August.
The underground samizdat publication Chronicle of Current Events (Khronika tekushchikh sobytii) reports on hundreds of people who have been arrested for speaking out against Soviet policies. A favorite tactic of the Soviet authorities is to confine dissidents in mental hospitals.
By autumn 1971, 49 Soviet Jews are reported to be in prisons and labor camps. The arrests of Jewish activists continue. In Leningrad, nine Jews are sentenced for belonging to a Zionist organization. In Kishinev, nine Jews receive prison sentences for alleged involvement with the 1970 Leningrad plot to hijack an airplane to the West. The authorities also crack down on Jewish religious and communal life. In Kyiv, for instance, Jews are barred from adding Hebrew inscriptions to tombstones.
Yet there also is a sharp increase in the number of Jews permitted to leave the Soviet Union. This policy shift may have reflected the regime’s desire to rid itself of outspoken dissidents, its efforts to stop the emigration movement from spreading to other minorities, or its growing interest in détente with the West.