Kibbutz Galuyot - Intro

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Resource Type: Peula in: Engels
Age: 9-11
Group Size: 5-30
Estimated Time: 90 minutes

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Resource Goal

Review the history and struggle to free Soviet Jewry, discuss the mass Aliya of Russian Jewry; explain the joys and problems of absorbing so many new olim

Required Props & Materials

papers for each station, strips of colored paper, carrots or candy for bribing Soviet officials.

Resource Contents

Note: Since the fall of the Soviet Union hundreds of thousands of Jews have made Aliya from Russia. This is one of the best and vivid examples of Kibbutz Galuyot. With this good phenomenon also come natural difficulties. Israel, such a young and small country, is now faced with the task of absorbing a ten percent increase in their population. In turn, the Russia Jews must adjust to a modern western society, new customs, and a reawakening of their history and Judaism.

If we were living 15 years ago, this would be THE crucial topic we were teaching our chanichim about. Today it is not as vital, but it is still important for the chanichim to know about, just as the aliyot from other countries are important to learn about.

Background: In the 60s several tens of thousands of Jews were allowed to leave the Soviet Union to move to Israel. However, in the years that followed, with an escalation in the Cold War, Jews were barred from leaving. Through the 80s, many Jews in Russia wanted to leave the country and come to Israel, but were refused visas. Those who even applied for visas were fired from their jobs, their property was confiscated, and they were put in jail. These Jews were called Refuseniks. In America, a huge political campaign was launched to get these Jews freed, under the title Operation Exodus. Perhaps you guys are too young to remember, but when I was younger there used to be big signs in front of all Batei Knesset asking for money to support Operation Exodus. Bnei Akiva played a critical role in this campaign, sending many madrichim to Russia to bring Judaica and educate Russian Jews about their religion, which they knew very little about. Bnei Akiva also organized rallies to support the cause. When the Soviet Union collapsed, many Jews seized the opportunity to move to Israel. Currently, close to one million Jews, a fifth of Israels population, are from the former Soviet Union.

Any Jew wishing to emigrate from the Soviet Union to Israel had to take 11 steps:

  1. Receive a VYZOV, or affidavit, from a relative abroad, inviting you to join him. Jewish emigration is allowed by the Soviet government only on the principle of family reunion.

  2. Go to the Soviet Office for Visas and Permits (called the OVIR) and fill out a form with information such as family, parents, dates of birth, place of work.

  3. Acquire other forms of documentation. One of these is the KARAKTERISTICA, an evaluation from your place of work, signed by a local trade union representative. Merely upon application many Soviet Jews find themselves demoted or fired, often in the form of public excommunication by colleagues. Children in schools must also get one. This is often followed by ridicule from classmates and inability to graduate.

  4. A document from local housing committee in which all members of the family must sign the agreement to go. Parents, even of adults, must sign approval whether or not they are going.

  5. Return to the local OVIR, pay, $45, and wait up to 6 months at which time you receive a yes or no answer. Many people with important jobs are told no. People in high jobs therefore leave them for menial labor during the application period.

  6. If you are fortunate you receive a RAZREWENIA, a license from the Soviet government stating that you can leave the country. A race against time begins you have 10-25 days to obtain many other documents in order to leave. Such as:

    1. That you have resigned from your job and returned the work book that all Soviet citizens carry.

    2. That you have returned the trade union book, military service book, and resigned from school or university.

    3. That you have left your apartment in proper condition.

    4. That you paid $1,000 for each emigration family

  7. You then travel to Moscow to the Dutch Embassy, which represents Israel, where you undergo triple check by Soviet Officials. If all forms and documents are completed, you finally receive your passport.

  8. Transit visas must be obtained from countries you must pass through on your way to Vienna.

  9. Packing cases must be bought from the government as well as customs permits for what is taken out.

  10. You are allowed to take only $100 worth of goods. All extras and valuables must be left behind. You go through thorough customs checks at borders.

  11. You finally arrive in Vienna and into the hands of the Jewish Agency, who take you to Israel.

Of course, once in Israel you would have a whole other absorption process to go through, and new documents to get, such as a Teuda Zehut, ID card.

Game 1: Escape from Russia

This is another type of station game. Each madrich will be at one station spread out anywhere in the Beit Knesset, giving out various documents. Chanichim can go to any station they want, but will find that various documents are needed before they can get others. For places with an insufficient number of madrichim, you can go around in groups, deciding jointly which station to go to, and have each madrich run the stations him/herself for the group they are with (In this case, the madrich may want to think of other tasks to make the chanichim do between stations). Madrichim can make things as difficult as they want to slow down chanichim, demanding to see specific other documents before processing a chanich. They may also confiscate documents they suspect of being forged.


At any point Chanichim may need to bribe Soviet officials. Bribe material is received here, in the form of some product, such as baby carrots or some candy. At a station, they may try to bribe the officials in order to obtain documents. Also the place to collect Black Passports, indicating that chanichim have finished and are ready to travel to Vienna and then to Israel.

Station #2: Corresponds with step #1 above. Chanichim need to prove that they have relatives abroad by naming 4 cities in Israel where they might have relatives living. If they succeed, give them a red strip of paper with the word VYZOV on it.

*Station #3: Chanichim must tell their name, address, and birthday to receive a piece of paper from the OVIR, the Soviet office for Visas and permits. Upon completion give them a white strip of paper. This is also Station #6. That is, if chanichim come here with a blue, green, and white piece of paper, you take it from them and give them a yellow strip of paper.

Station #4: Chanichim must receive an evaluation from the place where they work. They need to have a red strip of paper to receive this. Then they must sing Ive been working on the railroad. When finished, give them a blue strip of paper. This is also station #7. Chanichim with both a yellow and red strip of paper can turn them in for a brown one, indicating that they have resigned from their job and turned in their union book.

Station #5: You must get permission from your whole family. Chanichim must join up with three others who have the same colored hair as them and come together. If any do not have a red strip of paper, they cannot be processed. Upon completion, give them a green strip of paper.

Station #7: Moscow, where all your documents are checked. Chanichim coming here must have a brown, yellow, green and white piece of paper. If they have all these, they may receive a black passport.

Discussion: Obviously this pattern makes life a little difficult for the chanichim. Many of them may even get upset by this. Remind them how must more difficult it was for Russian Refuseniks and how much more they had at stake. Nonetheless they desired to go to Israel. (How much simpler would it be for us??)

Have a game prepared for the chanichim who finish quickly, while waiting for others to finish.

Game 2: Im going to Israel

Have chanichim sit in a circle. The first one goes and says Im going to Israel and bringing X. The next chanich then says Im going to Israel and bringing X and Y. Everyone adds an object, and play continues until people forget and get out, or until interest wanes.

Game 3: Israeli Word Association

For a new oleh there are many positive as well as negative aspects to Israeli life.

The chanichim are asked to call out as many words as they associate with Israel. Ask them to call out things an Oleh might associate with Israel. These can be divided into good and bad things. The participants then have to justify their choice of words. These words can now be linked to the new influx of Jews from Russian and other countries. How many of the words are really good or bad? How do you overcome the bad points?

Discussion: When Russian Olim came to Israel, they found many things different from the countries they had come from. While Israel was more free, it also didnt guarantee employment, give full medical coverage, or ensure housing, as Soviet countries did until Communism. For this reason, they often feel that Israel is not doing enough for them. In addition, since the Soviet Union outlawed Judaism, many have little to no Jewish education, and some are not even Jewish. This results in cultural clashes. (Should it be allowed to sell pork in Israel, if there are non-Jewish Russian olim who want to buy it?)

Story: How they Taught Me I was a Jew by Alla Rusinek

You ask me how I came to the idea of leaving the Soviet Union and going to Israel. I think that though I heard about Israel only four years ago my whole life was the way to it. You can see it yourself.

I was born in Moscow in 1949 and was the most typical Soviet girl. I studied well, was a young Pioneer-Leninist. My classmates thought me very ambitious. But they were wrong. My family was very poor. Mother brought us up, two daughters, without a father and having a very low salary. We never had new clothes. I never thought about our poverty. I was sure that everybody lived this way, at least the families of engineers, because my mother was an engineer.

I gave all my time to my school, my Pioneer organization and later the Young Communist League ---the Komosomol. I worked hard. And I was happy coming home later after school. According to Communist ideals the individual must sacrifice his own personal interests for that of the socialist society at large. And I loved my country, my Soviet people.

My? Yes, I thought it was mine. But there was something that made me different from other people. I happened to be born a Jew. I dont know what it meant but it was written in my identity card: yevreika. My Russian classmates insulted each other with this word. I saw it written in chalk on the walls of the houses. It was written very distinctly in my identity card and legalized by a round seal of the government. At the beginning of every school year the teacher asked everybody: Your name and nationality. I answered in whispers.

Little by little I began to understand what it meant to be Jewish. In 1961 I was not admitted to a special English high school. In 1966 I was not admitted to the Institute of Foreign Languages. I thought it was my personal failure and couldnt understand why the examiner, looking at my identity card, said that I didnt speak good Russian.

Well, in other words I understood at last. They dont want me, I am a stranger, this is not my country. But where is a place for me? I began to be proud of being Jewish.

When I heard about Israel in 1967, about an aggressive, capitalist state, an agenst of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, I didnt fail to understand it was my home, my people, defending their young state. I understood that to be Jewish meant to belong to the Jewish nation with its history, culture, religion.

I began to study Hebrew. In some old books I learned the first facts about Jewish history: the Maccabees, the Warsaw ghetto. For the first time in my life I went to the Synagogue, the only synagogue in Moscow, where I saw thousands of people who looked like me and thought like me. We sang Jewish songs, we danced Israeli dances. It was wonderful but it was dangerous. Secret policed entered my life. I was expelled from the Komosomol, then I lost my job. They followed me, they searched me, they called me in for frank talks and threatened me. What did I think then about Communism? I didnt think. I was tired and frightened. For two years I applied for an exit visa and was refused. I applied alone. Mother had died after eight years of dreadful disease.

I was not alone in this struggle. There were thousands of us in Russian who came to the synagogue to sing. And among them was one, the most handsome boy in the Soviet Union at least. A year after we met at a Chanuka party we married. We were in a hurry, any of us could be arrested then in the summer of 1970. Most of uour friends were arrested then in Leningrad and Riga. We didnt want to lose each other.

A week after our marriage I was informed that I had to leave the country within six days and alone.

Please, dont ask me what I felt. I dont remember. Perhaps I was in a deep shock. No, I didnt cry. His family paid for me the sum the Soviets demanded for renunciation of Soviet citizenship 900 rubles (nearly $1000). I never thought I owned such an expensive thing or I would have sold it and bought something nice. All these months I have hoped they would allow him to join me. We are husband and wife. One family. But he has not been allowed to leave.

You ask me what I think about Israel now that I live there. It is difficult to answer this question. Its the same as if you asked me what I thought about myself. I cant praise myself. Israel is me and I am Israel.

From the NY Times.

(After this article was published, her husband was given permission to join her in Israel.)

Related Resources can be found under:
» Alles > Eretz Yisrael > Aliya
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