JERUSALEM (Jun. 22)
Project Renewal, the partnership between diaspora Jewry and Israel to rehabilitate slum neighborhoods and other distressed areas, dominated the Jewish Agency Assembly here today.
Akiva Lewinsky, the Jewish Agency Treasurer, announced that the Agency’s Board of Governors has authorized a regular budget of $390 million for the next fiscal year and a Project Renewal budget of $62 million, a total of $452 million. It was described as the Agency’s first balanced budget.
According to reports released by the Jewish Agency today, only $450 million of the original $600 million earmarked for Project Renewal will actually be spent. Since the start of the program in 1979, 67 towns are targeted for assistance and 13 slum neighbor hoods are about to begin receiving aid.
Agency officials estimate that the 67 towns already receiving assistance will require an additional $287.5 million. Another $50 million has been targeted for 13 other towns and $120 million for 68 distressed neighborhoods to be added to Project Renewal over the next seven years.
Hagit Hovav, the administrative head of Project Renewal at the Housing Ministry reported that the decrease in the proposed budget is due to a recent decision to exclude mixed business and residential slums from the project.
U.S. ISRAELI TOWNS TWINNED
Under Project Renewal, Jewish communities in the U.S. are matched or “twinned” with distressed towns in Israel. Aid is rendered not only by funds but through dialogues and suggestions between the matched communities and occasional visits by representatives of the diaspora communities to their twin towns in Israel. The idea is to foster a sense of personal involvement on the part of donors and recipients.
At an Assembly workshop today, delegates resolved “to urge communities who have already taken on additional neighborhoods to continue to do so. Those communities unable to assume full responsibility for twin towns should be encouraged to conduct separate campaigns for Project Renewal, ” the resolution said.
The delegates also discussed the possibility of a phase-out” program to prepare Israeli communities to draw on the resources they have accumulated during the course of Project Renewal. Those towns are expected to be able to operate independently once the flow of funds has ceased.