JERUSALEM (Feb. 5)
“How do you do it?” Golda Meir asked Paul Zuckerman in an incredulous tone last week. Zuckerman is in Israel to attend the annual Jewish Agency Assembly which opens here tonight. Golda’s question referred, of course, to his enormous success as general chairman of the United Jewish Appeal.
In 1972 Zuckerman’s first year in the UJA post, the UJA turned over to the Jewish Agency in cash gifts from American contributors more than $235 million – a record figure topping even the 1967 total. The forecast for this year is even better. With only one quarter of the campaign over, $100 million has already been pledged. The pledges are running 27 percent higher than last year, Zuckerman said yesterday in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
How, then, does Zuckerman do it? Firstly, he says, its not just him alone – he is ably supported by a select band of like-minded devotees of Israel among American Jewish leadership. The ongoing increases in UJA receipts he describes as “a phenomenon – a new understanding by U.S. Jewry of what Israel means to the whole Jewish people, and not just to Israelis themselves or to Jews seeking a haven from persecution.”
American Jews are mature enough to understand Israel’s needs and give accordingly without the specter of bloody war being necessary to heighten their awareness. Zuckerman terms UJA fund-raising “educating the U.S. Jew about the blood-soaked history of the Jewish people and the fact that the Jewish State is a barrier against history repeating itself.”
UJA SYNONYMOUS WITH JEWISHNESS
Zuckerman feels that other Jewish communities can learn from the American experience and know-how in both fund-raising and contributing. But the Jewish Agency must of course take cognizance of the tax problems and other obstacles in some countries, he adds. The recent establishment of a fund-raisers institute in Israel is an attempt to capitalize on the experience of fund-raisers in various countries and to train them to be emissaries in the latest techniques.
Zuckerman sees the UJA as much more than a mere fund-raising agency. It was developing into something almost synonymous with Jewishness itself, he observed. A UJA activist used to be a man apart on the U.S. social scene; now UJA work is socially acceptable, freely talked about, and even attractive. UJA membership was a vital way of identifying with Judaism and the Jewish people. That was why the organization was attracting the best young Jewish leaders into its own leadership ranks.
The Jewish Agency Assembly this week is a symbol, Zuckerman says, of this heightened interest and participation of U.S. Jewish leadership in Israel’s problems. Participation has particularly intensified since the reconstitution of the Agency 18 months ago to embrace the fundraising bodies – principally the UJA in American and the Keren Hayesod elsewhere – along with the World Zionist Organization.” No other people would do it. Only the Jews,” observes Zuckerman, “give of their time, their interest, their emotions as well as their money….”
But while the U.S. Jewish leaders come here to learn Israel’s problems and sometimes to advise, they are careful never to interfere. Israel’s policies are its own concern and while they are naturally the subject for thought and private discussion in top UJA circles, the organization never veers from its public support of the Jerusalem government’s positions. Nor does the individual contributor condition his own donation upon his approval of particular Israeli policy or policies, Zuckerman asserts firmly.
NO CONFLICT BETWEEN UJA, ISRAEL BONDS
However, in the humanitarian fields of housing education and immigration absorption, where the Jewish Agency and consequently the UJA shoulder the heaviest burdens, the U.S. Jewish leaders feel qualified to offer their advice and experience to the Israeli authorities. Zuckerman says this advice is consistently well taken and never resented. He cites the Jewish Agency housing committee, founded by the New York building magnate Jack Weiler, as an example of constructive advice by American Jewish experts. The committee arranged for the Housing Minister and top officials to tour America and study new techniques.
Zuckerman sought to clarify the differing roles of the UJA and Israel Bonds which are often the cause of confusion both in Israel and abroad. He said that while the Bonds drive was vital and praise-worthy it should be stressed that buying Bonds was by no means the same as contributing to the UJA. Bonds were an investment, at a four percent interest rate. He himself purchased thousands of dollars worth each year. Admittedly in the early years of the State buyers were wryly dubious of getting their money back, but Israel had developed a proud record of prompt repayments: principal and interest. A contribution to the UJA was pure charity – and contributors understood it as such.
The tasks of the two drives also differed: UJA supported the humanitarian programs of the Jewish Agency in immigration, housing, and welfare, education absorption. Israel Bonds income went towards the industrial and economic development of the country. Thus there was no real rivalry or competition. On the contrary, the two organizations cooperated in timing of events and arranging speakers and meetings, Zuckerman noted.
Paul Zuckerman is known as the “peanut butter king” and JTA asked him what he could do to raise the standards of Israeli peanut butter. Yes, he said, it did taste pretty poor. It wasn’t the peanuts’ fault Israel grew the best peanuts in the world. There was evidently something wrong in the processing. “I’ve often wanted to go to a plant and see, but I never have the time. All told, I spend 90 percent of my time on UJA work….”
An article in the Daily News Bulletin Jan. 26 on the Defense Department’s broadcast of the Gerald L.K. Smith program referred to Jewish programs. The reference should have been to Fulton Lewis Jr. programs.
In an address to pilgrims at his weekly general audience in the Vatican, Pope Paul quoted the late Rabbi Abraham Joshun Heschel. The pontiff, who rarely quotes non-Christian writings, stated: “Before we have moved to seek for God, God has come in search for us.” The quotation was from Rabbi Heschel’s book. “God In Search Of Man.”