Special Interview New UJA Chief Has Three Goals
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Special Interview New UJA Chief Has Three Goals

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Herschel Blumberg, the Washington, D.C. builder soon to be installed as the new national chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, has devoted the past few months to a detailed and intimate study of his new bailiwick. He is crisscrossing the country, meeting with lay and professional leaders on the national and local levels, and looking for areas where he can contribute new ideas, new input.

Soft spoken and a systematic thinker, Blumberg, in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, outlined three goals that he will set himself during his chairmanship:

More workers: “There are lots of people who would want to help–but they just haven’t been asked,” he said. “Volunteering is indeed part of the way of life in America. But voluntary work for the UJA is often not sufficiently recognized.”

He wants to see more “UJA Sabbaths” in local synagogues, when UJA volunteers receive public praise. He wants to see an even greater involvement by rabbis in UJA work. The UJA. “Rabbis’ Cabinet” has been an unqualified success, he said, but more rabbis need to be drawn into UJA fundraising on the local level. “They are among the most articulate and best-informed people we have,” he said.


Synagogues as such, and their membership lists, are not always used as vehicles for conveying the UJA message. “My experience,” Blumberg said, “is that a Jew who is informed about the needs will give. But he needs to be informed. And that needs someone to sit with him and to talk to him. For that — we need more people.”

More gifts: The incumbent notional chairman, Irving Field, set up a “New Gifts Task Force” which has submitted a long list of recommendations regarding soliciting techniques, Blumberg said. Mail, phone, press advertisements, and the personal approach — they have all been carefully examined in their myriad forms, and conclusions drawn.

Techniques evolving out of the committee’s recommendations are presently being tried in three West Coast cities, and Blumberg said he intends to monitor the results carefully.

In Cleveland and Detroit, he noted, some 30 percent of the Jews are registered contributors to the UJA. The average across the country is less than 20 percent, in the big cities it is only around 15 percent. “I am going to go to Detroit and Cleveland, and ask them how they do it,” he said.


Focus on big givers: “That is where the money is,” the chairman-designate noted with disarming frankness. He said he intends “to use lay people on the national level more than before to make approaches to potential contributors on their peer level.” Some people who themselves make handsome annual contributions would perhaps be ready to give of their time to UJA, too, to encourage others to give. But they have to be asked, Blumberg stressed.

A committee has now been formed to keep tabs on people who are active in the “Young Leadership” echelon and then often tend to drift away, he noted.

Blumberg spoke above all like the seasoned fund raiser he is. The new system of electing a UJA national chairman, he said, is designed to put the accent on fundraising ability above all other qualities. He is the first chairman to have been nominated by a 10-member committee whose composition (it includes four UJA national vice chairmen) is weighted in favor of fund raisers.

This year’s campaign appears to be in good shape so far, with pledges 16.5 percent up on last year, Blumberg reported. He said he hopes that, if he can get many more people directly involved in working for UJA, the UJA will take off from the “plateau” on which it has been for the past several years.


Responding to the recent spate of reports in Israel that U.S. Jewish criticism of the government’s settlement policy is affecting UJA income, Blumberg said he has personally not come across a reluctance to give on the grounds of political criticism.

“But I have heard indirectly from other fund raisers that some people say they don’t want to give because of the government’s policy. When they are spoken to, however, they understand that UJA moneys are used for humanitarian projects, for social work” — and they generally make their contribution in the end.

Blumberg dismissed any talk of real, widespread decline in giving to the UJA. But that does not mean that U.S. Jews all agree with the policies of Israel’s government. “You can disagree with the policies and still give for humanitarian needs. Our policy at UJA is not to interfere with the government’s policies,” Blumberg stated.

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