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Jewish Community Centers Proving Effective in Meeting Social Service Needs Abroad

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Jewish Community Centers, one of the few Jewish institutions native to the American scene, are proving effective in meeting major social service needs in Europe and Israel. This point was underscored at the recent meeting here of the Board of Directors of the National Jewish Welfare Board. Mordechai Bar-On, Director of the Youth and Hechalutz Department of the Jewish Agency of Israel and a member of the Jewish Agency Executive, reported that in addition to the YM & YWHA in Jerusalem, there are 8 to 10 Centers in the development towns of Israel, and 30 more are being planning planned. He asserted that the development of Jewish Community Center work in Israel will benefit from the experience of shlichim (Israeli workers), who are employed by Centers and camps in the U.S. in an exchange program sponsored by JWB and the Jewish Agency. There are currently 100 shlichim on the staffs of centers and camps in this country. Stephen Solender, consultant on Community Centers and Camps for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Europe, reported that there are more than 120 Community Centers in 13 countries in Europe. Some of them are multi-function Centers with quite a sophisticated practice, including two in Paris and one in Antwerp.

The European investment in JCC’s totals $10,000,000, Solender said France, which has seen its Jewish population soar from 300,000 in 1957 until well over half a million today, has 50 Centers, 25 of which are in small communities. Solender expressed his concern that American Jews have forgotten their fellow Jews in Europe and that there is a real need for JWB to cooperate with European leaders in a number of fields of endeavor. Morton L. Mandel, Cleveland industrialist and national president of JWB, called attention to the fact that a plank in the JWB Study Report calls for the “intensification of the relationship of Centers to Israel and to World Jewry.” He added, “Now is the time to talk about how three partners — Israel, Europe and North America — shall cooperate to further Jewish Community Center work.” The Board members authorized the establishment of a North American Committee of JWB to provide an active link between JWB and the World Federation of YMHAs and Jewish Community Centers, to move toward “genuine collaboration,” and “to provide truly new dimensions in international programming.”

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