Jewish Agency Official Says the Agency Should Be ‘prepared’ for Possibly Many Olim from Distressed J

Akiva Lewinsky, treasurer of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization, said today that the Jewish Agency should be “prepared” for the possibility of large numbers of immigrants from distressed Jewish communities around the world coming to Israel.

Speaking at a press conference at Jewish Agency headquarters here, Lewinsky declined to specify from which countries such aliya might come. But he hinted at the Soviet Union when he said, “Jews are behind all kinds of curtains and these curtains might be lifted. Relationships between countries are changing. The situation is not frozen.” Asked if Israel and the Jewish Agency are prepared to absorb, say, 50,000 Russian Jews, he said that such immigration would contribute to Israel’s economy and that world Jewry would no doubt come forward to assist in the absorption in the event of such large-scale immigration.

Questioned about immigration from Ethiopia to complement the 10,000 Ethiopian Jews airlifted to Israel more than a year ago, Lewinsky said there are presently about 8,000 Jews left behind in Ethiopia. He said their situation has worsened since the airlift because they have been subjected to all manner of maltreatment.

Lewinsky also said, in reply to a question, that he expects more than 1,000 new immigrants from South Africa in the coming year. He noted that last year only 300 South African Jews immigrated to Israel. He did not say on what he based his prediction for this year.

Lewinsky’s press conference was called to announce the meeting of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors which will be held in New York February 18-19 with the participation of some 200 prominent Jewish leaders from all over the world, including a delegation of 22 from Israel.

Following the Board of Governors meeting, Board members and their staffs will participate in Jewish Agency Week, a series of visits to about 50 Jewish communities in the U.S. and Canada.

TWO MAJOR BUDGET PROBLEMS

Lewinsky said that the Board will discuss a projected budget of $381 million for the next year, in addition to the $48 million budget for Project Renewal.

He said the two major problems of the Jewish Agency with respect to the budget are the absorption of new immigrants and their final integration into the mainstream of life in Israel, and the efforts of the Jewish Agency to help some 400 settlements in Israel which are under its care and which, according to Lewinsky, are under severe economic strain.

Noting that the Jewish Agency has had a balanced budget for the last four years, he said that is the goal of this year’s operations as well. According to Lewinsky, the absorption of the Ethiopian Jews airlifted into Israel has cost $350 million so for, an amount shared by the Jewish Agency in Israel. He said that presently there are about 12,000 immigrants in absorption centers in Israel.

Lewinsky said the Board of Governors meeting will also discuss and plan the Jewish Agency Assembly which will take place in Jerusalem June 20-26.

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