1997

HIAS

HIAS works with other immigration agencies to convince the U.S. government to restore 5,000 slots to a proposed 1998 reduction of refugees admitted from the former Soviet Union. It joins forces with other agencies to protest the cutting off of SSI and other benefits to refugees and other legal immigrants.

RUSSIA and the FORMER SOVIET UNION

A new law mandates the removal from the Soviet internal passport of the notorious “fifth paragraph,” which designates nationality.. During the Soviet era, the “fifth paragraph” was used to identify Jews, facilitating discrimination in higher education and employment. While some laud this change, others fear that it will lead to the “Russification” of minorities and the undercounting of Jews in reports and surveys.

Russia’s first war with Chechnya draws to a formal close with the signing of a peace treaty in Moscow.

U.S./WORLD

For the first time, Soviet Jewry advocates hold a demonstration against U.S. policy. Ten thousand Soviet Jewish immigrants attend a march in Washington sponsored by the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews and the American Association of Jews from the Former Soviet Union in order to protest the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, signed into law the year before. The bill cut off SSI and cash assistance for legal immigrants who have not yet become citizens and affects many Soviet Jewish immigrants. Eventually, the law is revised and some (though not all) of the benefits are restored.

STATISTICS

  • Jewish emigrants from the FSU: 66,276
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to US: 14,531
  • Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel: 51,745

Looking Back

In a two-city survey of 800 Jews, 56 percent of those in Moscow and 48 percent in Yekaterinburg state that anti-Semitism has been the greatest influence on the formation of their ethnic consciousness and is an important motivation for emigration. Almost half say they prefer not to be registered as Jews in their passports, but only a small percentage say they would like to “pass” as Russian.