The U.S. State Department announces that Soviet Jews with exit visas will be able to apply for refugee processing only at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and no longer in Vienna and Rome. HIAS reorganizes its resettlement assistance programs to suit the new requirements.


The more than 181,000 Jews who leave the Soviet Union in 1990 surpass the combined total of those who left the country in the last 21 years combined. Mikhail Gorbachev states that he will once again place limits on Jewish emigration unless Israel guarantees that no immigrants will be settled on the West Bank or Gaza, but he later rescinds this threat.


Due to the dramatic decrease in restrictions on Soviet Jewish emigration, the U.S. grants the Soviet Union a partial six-month waiver of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, granting the USSR most-favored-nation trade status. The focus of Jewish organizations in the U.S. shifts from fighting for the rights of Jews in the Soviet Union to raising funds to facilitate their resettlement. The United Jewish Appeal launches Operation Exodus, a $420-million campaign.


  • Jewish emigrants from the USSR: 181,802
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to US: 31,283
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel: 185,200

Looking Back

For Jews in the Soviet Union, the year is marked both by a renaissance in Jewish communal, cultural and religious activity and an upsurge in anti-Semitism. Rumors of impending pogroms sweep the country. Though none actually occur, the atmosphere of fear is a factor in many Jews’ decision to leave the USSR.

For the first time, the authorities take legal action against anti-Semitic organizations. Criminal proceedings are brought against Pamyat (Memory), one of the most prominent of the new anti-Semitic organizations. One of its leaders is sentenced to two years in jail.

Israel finds it difficult to cope with the flood of immigration. Facilities are overwhelmed and there is a shortage of housing and other services. The immigrants have trouble finding employment. Some can only find menial jobs, despite advanced academic degrees.