TORONTO (Oct. 23)
Canadian Jewish leaders from all over the country meeting here agreed that aliya must be the responsibility of the Jewish community itself. They voted to set up a national Aliya Council and Aliya Councils in every community to direct the involvement of all the existing Jewish organizations in the effort–not simply in an advisory capacity, but functionally and operationally.
Gordon Brown, veteran Canadian Jewish communal leader and chairman of the conference, said the involvement of the Canadians themselves would make it possible for the shlichim from Israel to function more efficiently and would, in effect, make every Canadian Jew a volunteer shaliach. Dedicating the All-Canada Planning Conference to the memory of the late Pinhas Sapir, Brown reminded the 134 delegates from eight cities that without Sapir’s vision and courage the very concept of community involvement in aliya would never have developed.
“It has now been legitimized on the agenda of the North American Jewish community,” he said, and has become “the responsibility of all Jews, not just Zionists,” For the first time in its history, he told the delegates, the General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, meeting in Miami Nov. 19-23, will include a workshop on aliya. Brown will chair that workshop.
STEPS IN AIDING ALIYA PROCESS
The first step for Canadian Jewry, Brown said is the establishment of stable effective aliya councils, rooted in the Jewish community. Then, “when we have sent Canadians in good numbers to Israel, we will have earned the right to sit down with our brothers and sisters to enhance klitah (the absorption process).”
Yechiel Leket, director of the Israel Aliya Center in New York, told the delegates that he had been astonished to find that contrary to the impression most Israelis had, aliya was hot a dead issue in North America.
Describing the aliya situation in the Western world, Leket told the gathering that although “we didn’t promise you a rose garden,” there are roses waiting for the oleh and roses come with thorns: “We must make aliya less thorny,” so that the oleh can enjoy the roses.
Stressing that aliya is “Israel’s lifeline,” Leket listed three ways in which Canadian Jews can help in their own communities: to create a favorable atmosphere and to extend a hand to those Jews who are in the process of making aliya in order to provide encouragement to ease the process; to encourage and promote the distribution of information about opportunities in Israel among the communities; and to organize trips and encourage the young generation to visit Israel as often as possible.
NEED FOR INNOVATIVE METHODS
Dealing with specifics, a series of work-shops stressed the importance of maintaining contact with olim to support their absorption, and discussed “temporary aliya” as a step towards total commitment. One of the important themes sounded repeatedly, as it had been sounded at the first conference in New York last March, was the funding problem; many would-be olim simply lacked the funds to make aliya.
Brown, however, reported that there were funds available and during the past few years more than 600 loans had been made to Canadian olim, in addition to direct, outright grants to students, for aliya. Of all those to whom such loans were extended, only 11 reportedly did not “make it.” and returned to Canada. An important aspect of the Canadian communities’ effort would be their “aliya retention” program, effort would be their “aliya retention” program, to raise the level of successful aliya-absorption even higher, it was agreed.
Summarizing the proceeding, Dr. Leon Kronitz, executive vice-president of the Canadian Zionist Federation, declared that the conference, which took place last Sunday, affirmed the centrality of aliya in current Jewish thought and need, and pointed out that despite the acknowledged difficulties, it was up to Canadian Jewry “to find compassionate and innovative ways” to ease the problems of aliya and absorption and so make possible even greater numbers of olim from Canada.
Organizations represented at the conference included the entire Zionist movement, B’nai B’rith, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the United Israel Appeal, the Canadian Jewish Welfare Funds, Jewish centers and delegates-at-large. They came from Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal, Nova Scotia and Winnipeg.