HIAS provides assistance to 37,013 people worldwide. It is the largest number since the end of World War II, and it represents a 148 percent increase over 1978. In addition to Jews from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, HIAS helps resettle over 3,800 “boat people” from Southeast Asia.


Two Soviet spies in custody in the U.S. are exchanged for five imprisoned dissidents in the Soviet Union, including refuseniks Mark Dymshyts and Eduard Kuznetsov, who are serving long prison terms for their part in the attempted 1970 hijacking in Leningrad.

In December, the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan, marking the start of a nine-year war. The U.S. later will support the anti-Soviet resistance movement.


The U.S. and the Soviet Union sign SALT II, a strategic arms limitation treaty. Militant Iranian students storm the U.S. Embassy in Teheran and take 66 Americans hostage.


  • Jewish emigrants from the USSR: 51,320
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to US: 28,794
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel: 17,278

Looking Back

Dissident poet Igor Guberman and refusenik Viktor Brailovsky are arrested. The underground samizdat publication Jews in the USSR, edited by Brailovsky and contributed to by Guberman, is forced to cease publication.

More Jews are permitted to emigrate from the Soviet Union than in any previous year. Over 66 percent of those who emigrate opt for a destination other than Israel. Soviet authorities begin to reduce the number of exit visas granted toward the end of the year in reaction both to delays in Congress’s ratification of the SALT II treaty and its refusal to grant the USSR most-favored-nation trade status.

The Soviets place formidable bureaucratic hurdles in the path of those who apply to emigrate. Applicants now must have invitations from “first-degree” relatives (e.g., parents, wives, husbands, children) in Israel.