A fourth of Israelis say FSU immigrants have hurt society

Forty-five percent of the respondents said the FSU immigrants have had a positive or very positive influence on society.

November 30, 2010 04:27
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Peres with fsu immigrants 311. (photo credit: GPO)

One in four Israelis believes that immigrants from the former Soviet Union have been bad for society. This, according to a survey released on Monday by Shatil – The New Israel Fund, marking the 20th anniversary of the start of the massive immigration wave.

The survey, conducted by the Geocartography research group among 500 Jewish adults ahead of Shatil’s 20 years of immigration conference, found that 55 percent of the population thinks that the immigrants from the former Soviet Union integrated well into society.

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Forty-five percent of the respondents said the FSU immigrants have had a positive or very positive influence on society and 22% said the influence was neither positive nor negative.

Survey participants were asked whether they thought a majority of the immigrants had integrated into the labor force in accordance with their level of education and professional experience or whether they were employed in jobs that are inferior to what their education and experience could afford them. The results showed that 43% of respondents chose the latter response, with only 35% saying that the immigrants are employed in positions that are suitable to their skills.

When asked whether they would support their children marrying an immigrant from the FSU, 24% said they would strongly support the move, 19% they would somewhat support it, 305 said they would neither support or reject it and 14% said they would either reject or strongly reject such a union.

Support for such a marriage increased among people with academic degrees and those who defined themselves as secular.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents said the fact that immigrants who were not halachically Jewish failed to convert to Judaism made it more difficult for them to integrate into society. Thirteen percent said failure to convert made it slightly more difficult to integrate and 18% said it had no effect.

Milana Yaari, an immigrant from the FSU and a Shatil employee who works with immigrant youth, said that 20 years later, many immigrants were still struggling with integration difficulties.

“The question that underlies the survey and the conference we’re holding is whether the FSU immigrants are Russian-speaking Israelis or Hebrew-speaking Russians? The very question indicates that integrate has not been totally successful.

Even after 20 years, immigrants still face obstacles in integration. Part of it is because of the immigrants’ own attitudes and behaviors, but a big part is unwillingness on the part of Israeli society as a whole to fully adopt the immigrants into its midst,” she said.

Yaari said that there are still stereotypes and misconceptions in the general public that prevent FSU immigrants from full integration in the job market.

“We know that people with Russian-sounding names or people whose resumes state that they speak Russian are treated differently.

Even if they came here as children and subsequently were educated in the Israeli school system, served in the military and attended Israeli universities or colleges, they are still seen as new immigrants and face a glass ceiling in terms of the positions that are offered to them,” she said.

Yaari said that while in hitech or medicine, immigrant background tended not to matter so much, when it other fields, immigrants and even children of immigrants tended to be steered toward positions that would have them interfacing with the immigrant population.

“People get labeled as immigrants and that is the only prism through which they are seen,” she said.

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