NEW YORK (Jul. 1)
Speculation is rife over whether Jerold Hoffberger of Baltimore will seek a second term as chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors and, if not, who might succeed him.
Hoffberger, 68, is now officially acting chairman. His term has expired, and the Board of Governors, which met in Jerusalem last month, did not raise the issue.
Elections are expected to be held when the Board convenes again next October. Hoffberger seems assured of a second four-year term if he wants it. He is credited by many with upgrading the professionalism of the Jewish Agency, which oversees the distribution of a half billion dollars raised yearly by Diaspora Jewish communities for Israel.
But he told the Baltimore Jewish Times when he assumed office in July 1983 that he thought one term was enough. “The governing board has recommended that the term of office should be four years and I think that should be cast in iron,” the Jewish Times quoted him as saying.
The paper reported last month, however, that some believe Hoffberger has changed his mind and would prefer to stay on at least long enough to oversee the election of a new chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives.
The present chairman, Likud-Liberal Leon Dulzin, has said he will not seek re-election at the 31st World Zionist Congress in December. There were reports from Jerusalem that Dulzin has reconsidered. But he is in poor health and his political support within the WZO has faded, due in some measure to his connections with the Bank Leumi, which was rocked by scandal earlier this year.
According to the Jewish Times and reports from Jerusalem, possible contenders for Hoffberger’s office, should he step down, include Henry Taub, retiring head of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC); Raymond Epstein of Chicago; Morton Mandel of Cleveland; Shoshana Cardin of Baltimore, president of the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF); and Mendel Kaplan, formerly of South Africa. Taub is considered by some to be the front-runner.
The successor to the 74-year-old Dulzin is also a matter of speculation. It seemed certain last month that the Labor Party candidate would be Akiva Levinsky, presently the WZO-Jewish Agency Treasurer, though he has been challenged by Uri Gordon, head of the Youth Aliya department. The Jewish Times reported that American Jewish leaders who have taken an increasingly active role in governing the Jewish Agency in recent years would prefer an “outsider” of international reputation for the WZO-Agency chairmanship.
They are said to favor either Simcha Dinitz, a Laborite who is a former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., or Binyamin Netanyahu, currently Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations. Netanyahu is affiliated with Likud.
Reports from Jerusalem said Netanyahu wants to be assured of his nomination before he announces his candidacy.
Other reports from Jerusalem said there seems to be no interest in any of these developments in the Israeli media or public.