1985

HIAS

HIAS assists 623 Iranian Jewish refugees, a 66 percent increase over the previous year.

SOVIET UNION

In March, Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko dies after barely a year in power. He is succeeded by Mikhail Gorbachev, who ushers in an era of glasnost, or increased openness. Though there is no immediate change in policy – indeed, the number of Jews granted exit visas remains very low for the next two years – eventually, under glasnost, fewer restrictions on emigration lead to hundreds of thousands of Jews being able to leave the Soviet Union.

U.S./WORLD

U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz assures leaders of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry that the issue of Soviet Jewry will remain at the forefront of diplomacy between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. At a summit meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva, the U.S. once again signals that if the Soviet Union eases restrictions on emigration and the flow of information, it will consider easing restrictions on trade between the two countries.

STATISTICS

  • Jewish emigrants from the USSR: 1,139
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to US: 570
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel: 348

Looking Back

The Soviet authorities continue their persecution of those who teach and study Hebrew, breaking into apartments, confiscating books and other materials and arresting teachers and students. Leningradskaia Pravda publishes an article claiming that Hebrew study groups are centers of Zionist activity where “foreign contacts” spread anti-Soviet propaganda.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, Avital Shcharansky reports that the health of her husband, Anatoly, still in prison on trumped-up charges of espionage, has deteriorated. His latest letter to her reads, “I would like to dream of our reuniting in Jerusalem, but I need all my energies to survive as a human being.”