The government will commission a demographic study of the
Jewish community in the former Soviet Union, to be coordinated
by Nativ, as the next step in an initiative to expand Jewish
educational services in the region, The Jerusalem Post
The initiative was announced in early June, and included
the establishment of a high-level interministerial committee
headed by cabinet secretary Oved Yehezkel to examine ways of
reinvigorating aliya from FSU countries, which has dropped
from nearly 34,000 in 2001 to 6,700 in 2007. According to
current - and apparently inaccurate - government figures,
around 900,000 people in the FSU are eligible for aliya, of
which some 470,000 are Jews according to Halacha.
An estimated 80 percent of the 900,000 figure are
intermarried. The population is also relatively old, with 70%
of those eligible for aliya aged over 45.
The original initiative included a promise from
then-immigrant absorption minister Ya'acov Edri to increase
the aliya basket for this group by 50%.
The proposal was opposed by several Russian-speaking MKs,
such as Kadima MK Zeev Elkin, who noted that the demographic
figures were based on Russian and Ukrainian censuses and
neglected to account for the unique way in which
Russian-speaking Jews identify. As he told the Post in
mid-June, the figure of 80% intermarriage among FSU Jews fails
to convey that "between 60% and 80% of the children of these
intermarriages marry one another. In other words, while these
are intermarriages in a halachic sense, these intermarried
families function as a relatively closed community. And it's
precisely the children of these intermarried families who are
the main consumers of Jewish activities in FSU countries."
In a discussion this week in the Knesset Absorption
Committee, Yehezkel acknowledged the need for more accurate
figures, and charged Nativ with coordinating the new study.
The study will not be too expensive or difficult, according
to Elkin. It can be conducted through simple phone surveys
examining how relevant households described themselves in the
census, allowing the government to translate the census data
into information more relevant to Jewish educational
Nativ head Naomi Ben-Ami welcomed the study. "We want to do
this very much," she told the Post. "It can help us
continue the work we need to do with that population."
The interministerial committee headed by Yehezkel was
slated to present its recommendations for a new policy toward
FSU Jewry by next week, but this deadline will likely be
extended to allow the committee to examine the study's