JERUSALEM (Jun. 23)
Diaspora Jewry is shrinking rapidly and by the year 2000 will number only eight million compared to 9.7 million Jews who presently live outside Israel, according to Minister of Labor and Welfare Moshe Katzav.
By 2025, the end of the first quarter of the next century, there could be as few as five million Jews left in the diaspora, Katzav warned in the course of an address to the Zionist General Council which ended a week-long meeting here Friday. He said the forecast was based on scientifically conducted studies by demographic experts at his ministry.
The cause of the shrinkage will not be aliya to Israel but the erosion of Jewish population by a low birth rate, assimilation and intermarriage, Katzav said. He stressed the contrasting demographics of diaspora Jewry and Israel. Today, children under age 14 comprise only 15 percent of diaspora Jews compared to 30 percent of the Jewish population in Israel. Projected to the year 2000, the difference will be 12 percent to 26 percent respectively, he said.
DIASPORA JEWRY AGING
Katzav, one of the younger generation of leaders in the Herut branch of Likud, noted further that the Jewish population abroad is aging rapidly while the opposite is true in Israel where births outnumber deaths and intermarriage is virtually non-existent.
He said the negative demographic trends in the diaspora go hand-in-hand with what he called the “lamentable” state of Jewish education abroad. A high proportion of diaspora Jews receive no meaningful Jewish education at all, Katzav said.
“The crisis is much more urgent than people tend to realize. Whole communities will disappear. What has been preserved over centuries of suffering is in danger of fading away. Every Jew in the world is duty-bound to ask himself what his life’s purpose is as a Jew,” Katzav said.
His own prescription is aliya. “Philanthropic contributions are no substitute for aliya,” the Likud minister said. He sounded the long familiar criticism of Zionist leaders in the diaspora who fail to heed their own preachings by not settling in Israel. The rising generation in Israel is not prepared to accept the traditional position of diaspora Zionist leaders, he said.
ALIYA FOR ZIONIST LEADERS URGED
One of a long series of resolutions adopted at the close of the Zionist General Council meeting urged overseas Zionist leaders to set a personal example by immigrating to Israel. Other resolutions called for strengthening Zionist youth movements and the recruitment of olim; a wide ranging program in Israel and overseas for the resumption of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union; and for action to reduce “drop outs” — Jews who decide to settle elsewhere than in Israel after leaving the USSR.
The resolutions also called on the government to make aliya more attractive by alloting State lands to immigrants on which to build. They addressed the other side of the aliya coin — yerida–the emigration of Israelis to permanent residence abroad. The resolutions maintained that the drain of brains and manpower can be stemmed by offering appropriate housing and work facilities for Israelis, especially the young generation.
The resolutions called for strengthening Zionist education abroad and recommended implementation of a decision by the 29th World Zionist Congress to allocate funds for this purpose to the Conservative and Reform movements in the interests of Jewish religious and cultural pluralism.
JEWISH AGENCY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OPENS
Another major gathering of Israeli and overseas Jews, the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Agency, opened here today. President Chaim Herzog, just returned from a visit to his native Ireland, was on hand to greet the 600 delegates, observers and guests.
The Assembly is the supreme body of the Jewish Agency. Half its members are appointed by the World Zionist Organization, 30 percent by the United Jewish Appeal and 20 percent by the United Israel Appeal-Keren Hayesod.
The Assembly will last through next Thursday and has on its agenda the Jewish Agency budget, rural settlement, immigration and absorption, Youth Aliya, Project Renewal and Jewish education.
The delegates will be addressed during the week by Premier Shimon Peres, Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai and Leon Dulzin, chairman of the Jewish Agency and WZO Executives. (By David Landau and Gil Sedan)