5. Legalization and Mass Aliya
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

249 5 Legalization and Mass Aliya Although the Kremlin’s harsh repressive policy in the first half of the 1980s, which it enforced by numerous threats, interrogations, searches, and arrests of activists, dealt a serious blow to refuseniks’ activities , it did not succeed in crushing the Jewish movement. The powerful accomplishments of the late 1970s, the significant increase in the number of refuseniks, and the appearance of new activists in their midst, as well as Western support that remained steady and, indeed, grew even stronger helped the movement to withstand the hardships. The movement continued to pursue the basic goals of the struggle, seeking to attain the rights to free emigration, national culture and religion, Hebrew study, professional self-expression, and the right to educate Jewish children in the framework of national culture. As was already stated, the number of those able to emigrate from the USSR began to drop in 1979. Having reached a peak in 1979 of 51,331, the number of those who left fell to 21,648 in 1980, and in the following year it went down to 9,448. To a considerable degree, the comparatively high figures in 1980 and 1981 were the result of applications that had been received earlier. After the Afghan invasion, the authorities made the procedure for accepting documents more complicated, dragged out the processing period to two years or more, and sharply increased the number of refusals. In November 1982 Yuri Andropov, a member of the Politburo who was also chief of the KGB from 1967 until May 1982, replaced Leonid Brezhnev as head of the CPSU and of the state. Under his leadership, the already fierce ideological struggle against Zionism became even harsher. Under such conditions, the number of people ready to apply for exit visas 250  |  “We Are Jews Again” also declined. In 1982 the number of those who emigrated fell to 2,692; in 1983 to 1,314; and in 1984 to just 896 people.1 Emigration had been reduced by forceful measures. At the same time, the circles of refuseniks and those close to them had been expanded considerably by the addition of Jewish people who felt ready to emigrate. These people wanted to get together and to study Hebrew and Jewish history and tradition. Most important, however, they wanted a renewal of emigration, and they were prepared to fight for that goal. Those Soviet Jews who had already spent seven to ten years in struggle and refusal presented a different picture. Some of them were serving time in prison or camps, others had just been released from imprisonment , and still others had such a weighty dossier at the KGB that the least addition could tip the balance to arrest; they no longer had the resources to continue their activity of the 1970s. Moreover, some of them were simply tired, burned out, and no longer wanted to take a risk. Others became involved in underground work. Meanwhile, the open struggle in the style of action beloved by Western correspondents continued: demonstrations, collective visits to institutions of power, and so forth. Now, however, it was the youth who followed that path. For example, on December 11, 1980, a group of 150 Jewish activists held a demonstration in the reception room of the Supreme Soviet, demanding exit visas.2 On December 21, 1981, the first day of Hanukah, fifty Moscow and sixty Odessa Jews held a sit-down demonstration near the Lenin Library in Moscow. In addition, every December 24 demonstrations were held in solidarity with the Prisoners of Zion. Hunger strikes in protest against the refusal of exit visas were held in many cities in those years.3 Seminars, Cultural Life, and Religion The authorities did not manage to close all the seminars. As was noted, the Leningrad humanitarian seminar, led by Grigory Kanovich and others, had been dispersed in the summer of 1981, but Mikhail Beizer organized a cultural-historical seminar with a restricted number of participants and closed sessions. This smaller seminar operated successfully in the gloomy 1980s. In Moscow the Hebrew teachers’ seminar was replaced by a dibbur Legalization and Mass Aliya  |  251 set up in 1982 under the direction of Yuli Edelstein, which functioned up until his arrest in September 1984. Lev Gorodetsky ran another seminar on Hebrew teaching methods that operated until the beginning of the 1990s. Both the dibbur and the seminar retained the traditions of the previous seminar and allotted time to reports on historical, religious, and general cultural topics...


pdf