Special Interview Rosen Came to Visit, Decided to Settle
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Special Interview Rosen Came to Visit, Decided to Settle

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Ten years ago, Boston-born Harry Rosen, a veteran community worker in the U.S., came to Israel to investigate the possibilities of settling here permanently. Today, Rosen, 65, is acting director general of the Jewish Agency, a post left vacant by the death of Aviad Yaffe. A permanent director general will be named by the World Zionist Congress when it convenes next February.

In an exclusive interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Rosen said that when he came to Israel he was not a dedicated Zionist and had no religious motivations. “I just found Israel the place I wanted to live in,” he said. “I did not have to come to Israel. I was pretty successful personally in the U.S. I came to Israel because it was a society in the making and I was not disappointed.”

He has been with the Jewish Agency from the start serving as advisor to the chairman of the Executive. In that capacity he was involved with coordinating the activities of its various departments. After 10 years on the job he is convinced that most of the criticism levelled against the Agency in Israel and abroad is unjustified and that the Jewish Agency is vitally needed and works remarkably well. “Some day I may be able to convince journalists that this (the Jewish Agency) is one of the most exciting and innovative places in Israel,” he said.

He is especially enthusiastic over the work of the Youth Aliya and rural settlement department. “In these spheres the work of the Jewish Agency is known throughout the world.” For an organization with a $400 million annual budget the Agency functions in an exemplary manner, he said.


Several weeks ago a new Program Planning and Evaluation unit was added to Rosen’s office, headed by Dr. Mel Moguloff, a well-known American social planner. Its chief function is to implement the recommendations made by an ongoing management studies team from the Harvard University Business School. The implementation proceeds while the studies continue. “This is an on-the-job evaluation,” Rosen explained.

Under the supervision of the Jewish Agency’s planning committee appointed two years ago, the new unit monitors a list of priorities established according to needs and the ability to meet those needs. Basically, the unit poses the question: Given the funds at our disposal, are we getting the most for our money?

Rosen dismissed the charge that the Jewish Agency invests a great deal of its resources investigating itself but does little to follow through. “An organization of this size should have a much larger research and development unit,” Rosen contended. He said that “not only are the lessons learned but the objective situation is far more satisfactory than it is usually described.” The Harvard team has said that “for a non-profit organization, the Jewish Agency’s budget control system is among the best in the world,” Rosen reported.

He stressed “accountability.” According to Rosen there is a very high degree of accountability in the organization and constant implementation of recommendations made by its own internal comptroller and other controlling bodies. He rejected categorically frequently made suggestions that the Jewish Agency be abolished.

“If the Jewish Agency did not exist you would have to create a new instrument to do fund-raising in the U.S.,” Rosen said. “The Arab lobby in the U.S. is watching us constantly, just waiting for us to slip and violate U.S. law. But there is also an ideological consideration. How do you bind the Jews of the diaspora? By government? After all, they are not Israeli citizens and the Jewish Agency is their tool to participate in the building of the national homeland.”

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