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Forced Zionism? The Role Of The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) And The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) In Soviet Jewish Emigration

From the late 1960s to the beginning of the 1990s, over 340,000 Soviet Jewish refugees re-settled in the United States, while another 550,000 Soviet Jews immigrated to Israel. Soviet Jews had been declared as refugees under international law, as they had been discriminated against for being Jewish in the Soviet Union. The story of how Soviet Jewish refugees migrated to different parts of the world is a history that is lacking in scholarship and has focused on the role of Israel and the United States. The Israeli government adhered to Zionist law, meaning that they believed that all of the Soviet Jews belonged in their biblical homeland of Israel. However, this contradicted with most American Jewish organizations who believed that Soviet Jews should have the freedom to choose where they want to migrate to. The two main American Jewish organizations that were involved in this process included the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). These organizations disagreed on the idea of forced Zionism, where HIAS believed that refugees can choose where they migrate to, and the JDC focused on sending Soviet Jewish refugees to Israel.

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