This piece was first published as “How Russia’s Adoption Ban Hurts Jews” on The Sisterhood blog at The Forward.
On December 28, Russia legally banned the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens. President Vladimir Putin signed the controversial legislation (which takes effect on January 1, 2012) following its approval by the upper house of the Russian parliament earlier last week.
The ban is part of a package of retaliatory measures against the Magnitsky Law, American legislation aimed at punishing Russian human rights violators. The Kremlin has also cited the deaths of 19 Russian children due to abuse by their American adoptive parents as a reason for the ban.
Russia is the third most common source of international adoptions for Americans, following China and Ethiopia. However, the U.S. is the largest single foreign destination for Russian orphans. Approximately 1,000 Russian children have been adopted by Americans annually in recent years. Around 70,000 have been adopted by U.S. citizens since the fall of the Soviet Union.
It is unclear how many of those 70,000 children went to Jewish families. Seventeen percent of the 750 Jewish American adoptive families who responded to a survey conducted by the Adoption and Jewish Identity Project adopted children from Russian from 1990 through 2011. However, Dr. Jayne Guberman, the project’s co-director warned, “The survey respondents are not necessarily representative of the entire American Jewish population. For example, they are probably more highly Jewishly identified since they were interested in and willing to take the time to complete a long and complex survey.”
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.