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Jewish Agency Assembly Ends with Delegates Disappointed at Begin’s Failure to Appear

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The Jewish Agency’s annual Assembly ended here Thursday night, marred by rumblings of anger and disappointment that Premier Menachem Begin failed to appear to deliver the closing address as he had been scheduled to do.

The official explanation was that the Premier was too heavily occupied with pressing duties to make an appearance before the more than 800 diaspora Jewish leaders and others who attended the three-day gathering. The unoffical word was that Begin deliberately stayed away because he was angered that the overseas Jewish fundraisers had rejected two Herut candidates for the chairmanship of the Jewish Agency’s aliya department.

According to sources close to Begin, the veto of the two candidates, Raphael Kotlowitz and Eli Tavin, was not for objective reasons but because of the overseas leaders’ “antipathy toward Herut,” Kotlowitz, who has chaired the department for the past 5 1/2 years was denied reappointment on grounds that he was “unsuitable,” Herut’s alternative nominee, Eli Tavin, was also rejected.

It was reported at the Assembly that Jerold Hoffberger of Baltimore, who was elected chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, succeeding the retiring Max Fisher of Detroit, led the opposition to both Kotlowitz and Tavin. Nevertheless, Begin was not expected to “boycott” the Assembly. Menachem Savidor, Speaker of the Knesset, addressed the Assembly in Begin’s stead. He was well received but anger at the Begin snub was not concealed.

One delegate remarked that the Prime Minister “did more of a disservice than a service by making this point. ” Another observed that “There are a lot of important contributors here who expected Begin to address them tonight.”

FISHER RECEIVES MEDAL

Despite the ill feelings, the Assembly closed on a festive note. Fisher was awarded the “Medal of Israel” for his many years of devotion to Israel and the Jewish people and his 13 years of service to the Jewish Agency. He became chairman of its Board of Governors in 1970.

The Assembly adopted a general resolution expressing “outrage at Soviet discrimination and its trampling of human rights.” It also expressed sorrow at the ill treatment of Jews in certain Islamic countries and reaffirmed the Assembly’s commitment to aliya and Jewish education.

A number of department chairmanships remained unfilled when the Assembly adjourned, including the aliya department. If members of the executive committee are unable to agree on appointments, the incumbent chairmen will continue to serve until the Jewish Agency Board of Governors reconvenes next October.

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