WASHINGTON (Nov. 13)
Spokesmen for the American Jewish communal delegation which recently completed a study of conditions in Israel called today for a five-year program of increased financial aid and private investment to meet the state’s “tremendous backlog” of needs.
The spokesmen reported to the opening session of the 27th General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds here tonight. More than 1,000 representatives of Jewish communities throughout the United States and Canada heard their warning that Israel will not achieve self-sufficiency until hundreds of thousands of immigrants already in the country are decently housed and engaged in productive economic activity. These needs. they were told, can no longer be regarded as “emergencies” but must be dealt with on the basis of long term planning.
The panel consisted of Herbert R. Abeles, of Newark, Council president; Louis J. Fox, of Baltimore, Arthur E. Celber of Toronto, and Leo Yanoff, of Newark. They were joined by Morris W. Berinstein, general chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, who returned yesterday from Israel where he headed a study mission.
Charles I. Schottland, U.S. Commissioner of Social Security, told the session that in 1958 the U.S. Government will spend nearly $24 billion dollars on social insurance, public welfare, and related programs. He added that the partnership of public and voluntary agencies, which has been growing steadily during the past quarter century, has assumed great significance in the life of the nations.
The Council is the National Association of 213 local and central Jewish community organizations, representing more than 800 Jewish communities in the United States and Canada, which annually raise the bulk of Jewish philanthropic funds allocated to agencies providing health and welfare services in America, Europe, North Africa and Israel.
Mr. Fox, noting that Israel has received 920,000 immigrants since its establishment in 1948, said that many of them still require a great deal of assistance before they can support themselves. He said it will take $200 million to make 478 farm settlements, most of them less than 10 years old, fully self-supporting. He added that 115,000 immigrants are still living in canvas huts or wooden shacks and that $110 million will be needed to “wipe out this backlog in construction.”
“Even if not a single immigrant entered for the next few years,” Mr. Fox said, “there is an unfinished job of helping those who are already here to get on their feet. This is a massive undertaking that will require years of massive support from the American Jewish community.
“The central fact remains that the needs of Israel cannot be regarded as year-to-year emergencies. It would be more accurate to spell out these needs in a program of perhaps five years, setting year-to-year objectives to overcome the backlogs we already have.”
PLANS REPORTED TO INCREASE INVESTMENTS IN ISRAEL
Mr. Yanoff declared that Israel’s drive toward self-sufficiency requires a great increase in private investment. The country’s goal, he added, is to double its exports in five years, from $200 million per year to $400 million per year.
He said that several plans are being considered to attract more investments. One is to liberalize investment and tax laws. Ancther is for the government to sell its shares in successful enterprises while continuing to invest primarily in risk ventures vital to the country but which would not attract private foreign capital. A third is to develop a centralized program, with strong professional direction, which would mobilize American businessmen who are already successful investors in Israel, and to attract new investors.
Mr. Berinstein agreed that Israel had a “staggering backlog of unmet human needs.” He said that his study group had passed a resolution asking the Jewish communities to raise increased funds in 1959 by means of a regular and a special fund.
Thousands of Jews dwelling in East European countries which for years have been sealed off, are finding exit channels suddenly opening up, he said. He said that in one country “60,000 Jews are registered to leave and the number of registrants is expected to double within a month.”