Critical State of Zionist Finances: Palestine Jewish Agency Executive Members Returning Month’s Sala

In view of the critical state of Zionist finances, and pending an authoritative decision on the question of salaries (an emergency meeting of the Actions Committee of the Zionist World Organisation has been called in London for Monday week, the 12th. Inst., to consider the critical financial position and to take effective action), the members of the Executive of the Jewish Agency have decided, the J.T.A. learns, to return one month’s salary for the current year to the Palestine upbuilding funds, apart from their usual contributions to the Keren Hayesod, the Jewish National Fund and the other funds engaged in Palestine upbuilding work.

The Finance Commission of the Jewish Agency held two meetings in Berlin last week to consider the situation created by the world-wide economic crisis. Dr. Bernhard Kahn, European Director of the Joint Distribution Committee and Vice-Chairman of the Finance Commission of the Jewish Agency, who has just returned from his stay in the United States, reported on the preparations which are now being made there for the next drive for Palestine funds, and a plan of economies in the budget of the Jewish Agency was drawn up by the Commission for submission to the Jewish Agency Executive in London and Palestine.

Mr. Simon Marks, who is the Zionist Vice-Chairman of the Finance Commission of the Jewish Agency (Dr. Bernhard Kahn represents the non-Zionists) reviewing the position of the Keren Hayesod at the recent English Zionist Conference, said that it was his duty to divert attention from political questions to the grave financial situation, which if it was not taken in hand, may lead to a greater catastrophe than any White Paper that any Government could issue. Speaking of the findings of the Finance Commission of the Jewish Agency at its last meetings in Berlin, Mr. Marks said that it was revealed there that they had an estimated £145,000 to meet an expenditure of £340,000. This meant that if they were to cut down and retrench in Palestine considerable hardship would ensue, but even if they were to cut down, they could perhaps save £60,000 but yet there would be an estimated deficit of £140,000. Can we Jews, asked Mr. Marks, in spite of adverse conditions, rise to the occasion? Is a mere £140,000 to bring so much ruin in its train? Political changes are certainly beyond our control, but economic changes should be within our control.

Dr. Weizmann, too, in his message to this Conference, spoke of the financial crisis, one of the severest which the world has ever experienced, and of which the end no one can as yet foresee”, urging that “the political movement and its achievements are nullified if we lack the economic and financial means for carrying out our work”.

JEWISH AGENCY OFFICIAL SALARIES

The Jewish Agency Executive in Palestine, and the head offices of the Keren Hayesod and the Jewish National Fund have been publishing their salaries lists, and the Palestine Hebrew Press has in welcoming their action expressed the hope that all the other Jewish institutions in Palestine, including the banks, will follow their example, and publish lists of the number of their officials and the amount of their salaries. At the same time the Hebrew papers in Palestine have taken the view that the salaries of the Executive members and Directors of the Funds are excessive, and in view of the financial crisis should be cut.

In the early part of 1927, at the time of the prolonged economic depression in Palestine, which Mr. Leib Jaffe, Director of the Keren Hayesod, then described as “the gravest that has ever faced us”, adding “we find ourselves in a period of dire emergency”, there was similarly a wave of criticism against the Zionist Executive, also in connection with the question of the salaries of the officials of the Zionist Organisation and Colonel Kisch issued a statement dealing with “the unjust and ill-founded charges which have been raised in many quarters against the officials of the Zionist Organisation. These charges which have been repeated in the Jewish Press both in Palestine and in the Diaspora”, he said, “may be summarised as suggesting that the Zionist Executive and its dependent institutions, the Keren Hayesod, the Jewish National Fund, etc., are greatly overstaffed with idle officials who live in luxury and make no sacrifice for the common interest during the present distress. I do not hesitate to say, and I can speak with some knowledge of the subject,” Colonel Kisch declared, “that the staff which we employ is by no means excessive for the work which it has to do and which, but for the exceptional devotion and zeal of the staff, remain extra hours in the office after closing time, while others regularly take office work to their homes to do at night. No overtime salaries or allowance, are paid.

“There remains,” Colonel Kisch went on, “the question of the contributions of the staff to the common welfare, both generally and with reference to the present crisis. I would first mention that not only does the whole staff pay Massor to the Keren Hayesod, but that whenever there is a collection for any national purpose, as, for example, inscribing a name in the Golden Book of the Jewish National Fund, the first address to be visited by the collectors is that of the pikidim, and such appeals invariably meet with a generous response. On the occasion of the recent collection of the Moazath Poalei Jerusalem for the unemployed, unmarried officials of the Palestine Zionist Executive all gave 12 days salary to the workers’ relief funds, and married officials gave nine days’ salary. Finally, it is with regret that I have to record that the officials have received no salaries for the last three months, and have loyally accepted this suspension of what had become due to them. It is a deplorable thing that the Executive has been obliged thus to hold up the salaries earned by the officials by continuous and steady work under conditions of great pressure, and were it not for the devotion of the officials and for their desire to share the distress of their comrades in the field of labour, such suspension of salaries would have produced demoralisation, which has happily been entirely absent. Instead of attacking and criticising the officials, Jewish labour in Palestine and supporters of Zionists funds everywhere should appreciate both the work they are doing and the sacrifice they have made. It seems to me that the Jewish public ought to have helped the Executive to create a Civil Service of expert officials devoted to the national aspirations and honoured by the public for their labours.”

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