Behind the Headlines New JDC Head: New Era? an Interview with Jack Weiler

Jack D. Weiler, the newly-elected chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee, said in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the JDC will continue its ongoing programs but will seek to help Jews in other countries as well. Faced with conditions external to JDC, such as inflation and the enormous requirement for and within Israel itself, Weiler said this has not affected the basic work of the JDC.

He characterized the sixty-year-old relief agency as one faced with huge “priorities,” such as where do you go and whom do you help first and for this, the present budget of just under thirty million is hardly enough, He reminded this interviewer that in 1947 the JDC operated on a budget of $71 million to facilitate the rescue and rehabilitation of Jews surviving the Holocaust. Today, however, a major concern in this area is the human needs of Jews coming out of the Soviet Union.

Of these there are three classes. Those who are enroute to Israel and are in Rome. They are housed and fed. Likewise those leaving the Soviet Union for other countries. However, Jews who have emigrated from the Soviet Union for Israel and then left Israel, receive no relief from JDC. Weiler emphasized that relief and transit are major JDC emphases and that concentration must be kept to workable programs, with no political side effects.

He said economic conditions in the United States as in Israel are a matter of anxiety to the work of JDC and that, while devaluation in Israel has been helpful, the inflationary process has eaten into any benefits resulting from it.

WILL SEEK INNOVATIVE ACTIVITY

Asked whether there was any “fat” in the JDC budget, in view of the intense concern in the States today about such matters, he said there couldn’t be especially since it was functioning on a financial level much lower than earlier years. He said it was important, nevertheless, to maintain basic functions and cited proudly the medical staff working for JDC in its various installations as part of the total attention given to JDC beneficiaries;

Weiler ranged over the variety and geography of JDC’s programs; and when asked how the JDC made up its budget, he said it was done by the Executive Committee. The actual monies JDC then receives come from the United Jewish Appeal in this country and from special funds in other countries.

Some communities are able to take care of their own, like the German Jews, but he said there would be an examination of the JDC program for wider and perhaps more innovative activity such as in countries where JDC at the moment is not officially acceptable. Weiler said also he intended to make on-the-spot visits to key and unusual JDC installations from which he will report directly through the media rather than only assembling a report for later circulation. Meanwhile, he pointed out, JDC aid to the bodies and souls of Jews continues at the same concentrated pace.

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