1983

HIAS

HIAS sponsors a special booth at the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Washington, D.C., where it makes copies of its arrival records available to those who came to the U.S. as displaced persons after World War II. 

SOVIET UNION

The Soviet regime establishes the Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public as a propaganda tool to discredit the emigration movement. The formation of the Committee also signals its continuing support of the Arab side in the Israeli-Arab conflict. Jewish World War II hero General David Dragunsky is appointed as the Committee’s chairman.

U.S./WORLD

Shortly after referring to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” in a speech, U.S. president Ronald Reagan announces the Strategic Defense Initiative, in which ground-based and space-based systems would be used to protect the U.S. from attack by nuclear ballistic missiles. Tension between the two superpowers increases sharply.

Terrorists drive a car bomb into a military barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 Marines and other U.S. troops. The U.S. invades Grenada after a coup brings a pro-Soviet government to power.

The Third International Conference on Soviet Jewry is held in Jerusalem with 1,000 delegates from 31 countries.

STATISTICS

  • Jewish emigrants from the USSR: 1,315
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to US: 887
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel: 861

Looking Back

The number of Jews allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union continues to drop. Though activists both in Russia and abroad insist that substantial numbers of Soviet Jews still want to leave, the regime maintains that “reunification of families,” the official rationale for allowing even limited Jewish emigration, has all but been completed and that very few Jews still want to leave.

The authorities institute ever more stringent requirements for obtaining exit visas. Would-be emigrants now must have the written permission not only of their parents and ex-spouses, but also of their brothers and sisters.

British historian Martin Gilbert visits the Soviet Union and interviews refuseniks. A year later he publishes The Jews of Hope, a widely read book that helps mobilize worldwide support for Soviet Jewry. American Jews who visit the Soviet Union and try to make contact with refuseniks report increased harassment, including overzealous searching of luggage and confiscation of materials.

Eleven refuseniks are arrested at an Israel Independence Day celebration in a forest near Leningrad. Iosif Begun, a teacher of Hebrew, is sentenced to seven years in prison and five years internal exile on the charge of disseminating anti-Soviet propaganda.