Vast Changes in Jewish Needs Reported at Federation Parley
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Vast Changes in Jewish Needs Reported at Federation Parley

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Despite great achievements during the past decade, vast changes in Jewish needs overseas and at home will demand continued large-scale philanthropic efforts through central Jewish community campaigns in 1955, it was reported here to 150 Jewish leaders attending the 20th New England Regional Conference of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds.

Herbert R. Abeles of Newark, a vice-president of the CJFWF, and Philip Bernstein, associate director of the CJFWF, surveyed the shifting needs in Israel, North Africa, Europe and in this country. After full discussion of the needs and measures to meet them, the delegates agreed that only by continued emphasis on the “primacy and centrality” of local central Jewish campaigns could American Jewry hope to meet its tremendous responsibilities in the coming year.

“The great task of American Jewish philanthropy in Israel is now to enable that country to become economically self-sufficient, to help it expand its agriculture, and to aid it in providing decent housing for all the recent arrivals,” Mr. Abeles declared, “in Morocco, there are greatly increased needs resulting from recent events. We can and must provide the necessary assistance before the needs become more serious.”

Israel has been able to reduce its unfavorable export-import gap from $342,000,000 in 1941 to $190,000,000 in 1954, the conference was informed. In agriculture, which represents the greatest single investment of American Jewish philanthropic funds in Israel, considerable progress has been made in the development or increased yield of key crops. While total acreage under cultivation has been greatly increased, one-third of Israel’s tillable soil is not yet being worked.


Mr. Bernstein declared that great changes were taking place in health and welfare needs in this country. “There is a growing emphasis on helping the 96 per cent of the aged population who are not in institutions, a number of whom suffer from the most tragic loneliness,” he said. The forms which this assistance have taken include Golden Age clubs, casework, home care medical programs, and volunteer services to elderly people in their own homes. Care in institutions for the aged has also been modernized, he added.

“We are giving more attention to the needs of emotionally disturbed children to try to find the causes and cures of mental illnesses in their earliest stages, and to prevent the enormous human and financial costs reflected in the fact that one-half of all hospital needs in the country are filled by the mentally sick — costs which we share as taxpayers as well as through voluntary contributions.”

Community centers, Mr. Bernstein reported, face problems of shifting populations, outmoded buildings, new concepts of year round decentralized programs. Communities have accepted greater responsibility for Jewish education, but have yet to resolve difficult questions in carrying out that responsibility effectively.

Another great development in American Jewish community life, Mr. Bernstein said, has been the increasing interest in the creation of year-round planning bodies by federations to examine the needs of the community in their totality and plan to meet them in an orderly fashion. “Before we raise or spend the funds,” he declared, “it is important to know what the needs are and to make sure that every dollar spent will bring a full dollar’s value.”

Through unanimous approval of several resolutions, the delegates agreed that the best way for the communities to meet their worldwide responsibilities was the continued strengthening of local central Jewish community organizations. In noting the observance of the 300th anniversary of Jewish life in America and urging communities to participate fully in appropriate celebrations of the event, the conference declared that “one of the great and unique Jewish contributions to this country” has been the development of central Jewish community organizations.

The resolution urged communities to “rededicate themselves to the strengthening of our Jewish community organizations in meeting the even greater and more pressing needs which lie ahead.” The delegates, voicing the belief that “resources and manpower should be concentrated on the most urgent needs,” urged communities to assess the facts concerning the extent of multiple appeals in their communities and to insure that there is “a minimum of diversion from pressing priorities.”

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