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Agency Handling Immigration Needs of Jewish Migrants to U.S. Will Shut Down at the End of the Year

A New York agency. Service for the Foreign Born (SFB), which has been handling special immigration needs of Jewish migrants to the United States for 74 years, is being terminated as of Dec. 31 under an arrangement in which its caseload is being turned over to six New York City Jewish agencies. The union representing the SFB employes has challenged the transition as a threat to future Jewish migrants to this country, a charge in turn rejected by spokesmen for the transition agencies.

SFB, described by the New York section of the National Council of Jewish Women as one of its community service projects, is being terminated, according to Mrs. Sidney A. Bernstein, president of the section, because the section could no longer meet its share of the financing of SFB’s $200,000 annual budget. The section has provided 20 percent of that budget, with the balance of $160,000 provided by the Joint Distribution Committee. The JDC terminated its subvention when the section ended its support.

Mrs. Bernstein said the six agencies had agreed to cooperate in dividing responsibility for the services heretofore provided by SFB. The agencies are HIAS, the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA), and four member agencies of the New York Federation of Jewish Philanthropies–the Jewish Family Service, the Jewish Association for Services to the Aged, the Jewish Community Services of Long Island and Westchester Community Services.

CLAIMS CLIENTS MAY BE STRANDED

Plans for termination of SFB were disclosed in November by Richard Morton, executive director of District Council 1707, Community & Social Agency Employes, AFL-CIO, which has represented the SFB staff. Morton said then that SFB’s many clients were in danger of being stranded and future immigrants left without-hope because of the pending transition. He said there had been no attempt to involve SFB’s staff of four immigration specialists in the transition, a statement confirmed today by Ben Winitt, SFB director.

Morton also asserted that “since the SFB staff has not been called upon to participate in the new arrangement, we can only come to the conclusion that the purported projected changeover is purely window dressing and that the essential services to immigrant Jews will, in actuality, be discontinued.”

Morton said no other existing Jewish-sponsored agency renders a comprehensive service in the immigration and naturalization field, embracing casework, technical services and authorized representation of clients before the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

350 OPEN CASES

Alfred Kreech, the senior caseworker at SFB, who is also the union’s shop steward, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that SFB handled about 1200 cases a year and currently had 350 open cases. He said the SFB had not taken any new cases for the past two months because of the impending shutdown of the project.

Flora Rothenberg, executive director of the New York section, which issued the announcement of the transition arrangements, denied that the SFB was handling 1200 cases a year asserting that its caseload had been dropping steadily. That assertion also was made by a spokesman for HIAS, to which SFB is turning over its records on the 350 open cases. Apprised of those comments, Kreech said that the SFB caseload was 1265 in 1975 and that it had been in that area for many years.

Kreech said that, as of today, there had been no approaches made to SFB by any of the six agencies to hire any of the SFB’s four immigration experts. This was confirmed by Ms. Rothenberg, who said the four SFB caseworkers were covered by “adequate” severance and pension benefits. She rejected the union’s assertion that Jewish migrants would be left stranded. She also said that if, after evaluation of the 350 open cases, HIAS decided another immigration specialist was needed, one would be added to the HIAS staff.

PLAN FOR DISTRIBUTING CASELOAD

The HIAS spokesman, asked about the union’s assertion that HIAS handled only 75 cases annually involving immigration problems, said such services were provided during 1975 in 1545 cases by two HIAS immigration specialists and that HIAS officials felt the migration agency could handle the additional casework load without difficulty.

The spokesman noted that HIAS had not yet received the records on the 350 open cases and therefore did not know how many would need special immigration help. The spokesman expressed doubt that all 350 would need such service but confirmed Ms. Rothenberg’s statement that if another specialist proved to be needed, HIAS would add a staff caseworker.

Mrs. Bernstein said that after the section decided last January it could no longer provide its annual subvention to SFB, the Federation brought together lay and staff members of Jewish organizations to formulate “a strategy which would close the potential gap in service.”

After many months of meetings, she said, the United Jewish Appeal, the Federation, HIAS, NYANA and the Council of Jewish Women developed the plan for the distribution of the SFB caseload. Its substance appeared to be that HIAS will handle specialized immigration services while the family agencies will deal with problems of migrants falling into their fields of service.

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