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Activities of Jewish Agency Probed at Its General Assembly

The controversy over the parallel activities of the Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency in the field of immigrant absorption dominated the sixth annual Jewish Agency General Assembly here yesterday. Discussion centered around implementation of the Horev Commission’s report last year which recommended the establishment of a new authority headed by the chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives to replace both the ministry and the Agency’s aliya department.

David Levi, the Absorption Minister in the new Likud-led government, urged the Assembly yesterday to make no decisions regarding his ministry’s future until the government discussed the issues and arrived at a solution embodying the best possible form of cooperation between the ministry and the Agency. The Assembly endorsed his request. It also discussed at length the problem of drop-outs–Jewish emigres from the Soviet Union who opt to settle in countries other than Israel.

In an address to the Assembly’s opening session Sunday night, Max Fisher of Detroit, chairman of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors, urged depoliticization of the Agency in order to increase the involvement of diaspora Jews in its activities. By this he meant freeing the Agency from its present political orientation to the various political parties and factions in Israel. Fisher said that with a new government in office in Israel the Assembly delegates have a chance to forge new directions. He said the Jewish Agency would be more accountable through greater participation by Jews abroad in its activities and decision-making processes.

Yosef Almogi, chairman of the WZO and Jewish Agency Executives, told the 600 delegates from 90 countries that he favored implementation of the Horev Commission’s recommendations. These have been strongly opposed by Levi who has asserted recently that the Absorption Ministry’s functions were vital to Israel’s national interests and should be administered by the government alone.

VARYING VIEWS EXPRESSED

Not all Assembly delegates shared Levi’s view Jerold Hoffberger, an American member of the Board of Governors, said yesterday that too much time has passed since the Horev report was published. He demanded that the government give its recommendations “prompt attention.” Rabbi Richard Hirsch, who was a member of the Horev panel, said a compromise could be reached between the rival authorities with the State fulfilling those functions it was best equipped to handle and the Agency doing the same under the aegis of the single authority proposed by the Horev commission.

But Menachem Sherman, Director General of the Absorption Ministry, declared that a change of organization structure would provide no miracle cure. Any authority in charge needs wide powers and sufficient resources to take care of immigrants, he said.

On the problem of drop-outs, Dr. Judith Elitzur of the Hebrew University’s Communication Institute, cited a recent report which indicated that the drop-out rate might reach 75 percent of all Russian Jews reaching Vienna. She said the Jewish Agency must make a speedy decision on how to cope with the problem. An Israel Radio report said today that the government will discuss the issue. According to the report, the Committee of Ten which was appointed a year ago to find a solution, suspended its work because it was impossible to reach an agreement.

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