Stories from the Archives
Jewish Immigration to America

Soviet Jews

Skills Training for Soviet Jewish Immigrants

Soviet Jewish immigrants in a training course for bakers sponsored by FEGS in cooperation with private industry, New York, ca. 1970s.

About a century after the first mass Jewish immigration from Russian lands to the U.S., there began a new wave of Jews from Russia and the Soviet Union. After years of cultural and religious repression and of fighting for the right to emigrate, tens of thousands were permitted to leave beginning in the 1970s. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought about an end to emigration restriction, and thousands more Jews took advantage of the new freedom to leave. Some went to Israel, and several hundred thousand came to the U.S. 

Soviet Jewish Children at JFK Airport

Soviet Jewish children arriving at JFK Airport in New York, wearing HIAS buttons, 1979.

Although anti-Semitism has been a serious problem in [the Soviet Union] ever since the days of the czars, the Soviet government itself has embarked on a campaign of anti-Jewish discrimination in education and employment, in religious life and in cultural expression. From Jews – either as Jews or as individuals – each year brings progressively fewer career opportunities and increasingly harsher pressures. Physical harassment and jailing of Jewish activists are widespread. These circumstances have led many Jews to seek exit from the Soviet Union.

—1971 HIAS Annual Message and Reports

HIAS: Annual Reports, YIVO Library
Passover Seder for Russian Jewish Immigrants

Passover seder at the Hirschman YM/YWHA in Coney Island, Brooklyn. (L) Rabbi Ezekiel Pikus with Galina Silber and (R) Celia Kushner, Vice -President of the Hirschman YM-YWHA. The seder for newly arrived Russian immigrants was sponsored by NYANA (New York Association for New Americans) and Project ARI (Action for Russian Immigrants), April 20, 1976.

The New York community, in its diversity and numbers, has responded to these latest immigrants with an outpouring of interest, money and zeal which has been truly remarkable.

—Report presented by Dr. Herbert Bernstein, Executive Director of NYANA, December 2, 1975

New York Association of New Americans (NYANA), RG 246, YIVO Archives