The Integration of Immigrants from the Caucasus: Needs, Policies and Future Challenges

Jews from the Caucasus (“Kavkazi” Jews or “Kavkazim” in Hebrew) comprise one of the world’s oldest communities. Kavkazi Jews immigrated to Israel in two waves: some 12,000 people arrived during the 1970s and early 1980s, and an additional 60,000 immigrants came during the 1990s. Until the mid-1990s, government immigration and absorption policy did not define Kavkazi Jews as a unique target population.

In 1995, an inter-ministerial committee was established in Israel to plan policies and programs to support the successful integration of Kavkazi immigrants into Israeli society. The committee was established as a result of growing concern that these immigrants were facing serious challenges in the process of integration. The committee initiated a series of studies, which were undertaken by the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute and provided, for the first time, systematic information about the adjustment of these immigrants to Israeli society in a range of areas. This information became an important basis for developing a range of policies and programs to assist the integration of Kavkazi families and youth into Israeli society.

This report reviews the integration of Kavkazi immigrants in the following major areas: employment and vocational training, community development, the family, formal and informal educational (pre-school through higher education) social integration of youth, youth risk behaviors and army service. It identifies areas that require further assistance and the strengths of the community that can be used in developing appropriate responses.

This review is intended to serve Jewish community federations, and policymakers and professionals in Israel in recognizing the needs of the Kavkazi community in Israel and in determining priorities and strategies when planning intervention programs to promote the integration of this group. It was widely disseminated to all policymakers and to the major organizations involved in immigrant absorption and was the subject of intensive discussion and deliberation. In addition, the review’s findings were presented at several widely-attended seminars held at the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute.

The review was completed in 2002 and most of the information is valid for that date. The reports are now being made available to the wider public, so that they can provide an important baseline for reviewing and evaluating some of the more recent developments.

The review was prepared at the initiative of the UJA-Federation of New York in cooperation with JDC-Israel.