U.S. Jewish Leaders Meet on Emigration of Jews from Eastern Europe
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U.S. Jewish Leaders Meet on Emigration of Jews from Eastern Europe

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A plea that American Jews give “full philanthropic priority” to a United Jewish Appeal $100,000,000 Special Fund for resettling 100,000 immigrants expected by Israel this year from Eastern Europe was voiced tonight by Levi Eshkol, Finance Minister of Israel.

Mr. Eshkol’s plea was made to 200 key American Jewish leaders here, called together in an emergency session to hear the high-ranking official report on Israel’s greatest immigration crisis in a decade.”I know,” he declared, “it sounds trite to say we are faced by our greatest immigration emergency in ten years, but the plain, cruel, truth is that we are.”

The crisis arises “not just from the numbers who are coming, “he told the group. “It derives from the fact that Israel has no housing available for immigrants beyond the next month or so and no funds with which to build more. ” He said Israel expected some 8,000 immigrants monthly following the recent liberalization of emigration procedures by various East European governments. The largest Jewish community in Eastern Europe outside the Soviet Union is that of Rumania, numbering 250,000 Jews. Poland has about 40,000 remaining Jews.

The conference, made up of leaders from communities across the nation about to conduct drives in behalf of the 1959 United Jewish Appeal, also heard from Morris W.Berin-stein, UJA general chairman, Avraham Harman, member of the executive of the Jewish Agency, and Charles Jordan, director general of the Joint Distribution Committee.

The UJA general chairman pointed out that the emergency meeting was “unprecedented, ” in that the leaders had been called back from their communities only a month after the UJA annual conference, December 12-14 in New York. There they voted to seek a $100 million Special Find “over and above” the 1959 UJA regular goal of $105 million to meet the ongoing programs of its beneficiaries.


“We have called you back to give you the full story on Israel’s new immigration emergency, ” Mr. Berinstein said. He recalled that in December, Dr. Dov Joseph, treasurer of the Jewish Agency, had urged delegates to the UJA annual conference to help Israel’s people take in a large immigration in 1959.

“Israel’s leaders then estimated 50,000 would be coming, ” Mr. Berinstein said. “In a single month, ” the UJA general chairman added, “all immigration estimates have had to be doubled. Today most evidence points to the fact that an immigration flood has started that will continue for many months. None of us dare to take Mr. Eshkol’s plea lightly. In answer to this greatest immigration crisis in a decade, American Jews must be urged to respond in the same full and understanding measure as they did a decade ago.

“If we fail to reach our goal, ” Mr. Berinstein told the audience, “we will cause untold hardship to the newcomers and Israel’s people. ” He added,”we who count ourselves the friends of Israel’s people will have handed them a severe set-back to all they have accomplished in building a working democracy in ten years. ” He urged the audience to advance the progress of their pre-campaign efforts, with a view to producing the greatest sums possible for the UJA National Inaugural Conference in Miami, February 7.

Avraham Harman, member of the Jewish Agency executive, who arrived last week from Jerusalem for the meeting. declared that despite the present emergency, one 1959 welfare objective that must be retained to the fullest extent possible was a program for clearing Israel’s “ma’abarot”–shanty towns housing 110,000 earlier immigrants.

Mr. Harman revealed that the Agency hopes to direct the greatest number of newcomers to various “development” areas in Israel’s less populated regions. These include the Galilee region in Israel’s north, and the Negev. He said that the Agency must have $1,600 to meet the costs of an immigrant’s first year in Israel. This includes transportation from Eastern Europe, the immigrant’s share of housing costs; and welfare services.

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