NEW YORK (Jun. 14)
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry has been granted central responsibility, authority and accountability for Soviet Jewry advocacy on the national level, under a plan adopted last Thursday by the board of directors of the Council of Jewish Federations.
The restructuring of the national Soviet Jewry movement in America was decided in the first CJF board of directors meeting conducted over the CJF television satellite network.
The new plan calls on the NCSJ to maintain its “special relations” with the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council and to utilize NJCRAC to help coordinate local implementation of national policies and recommendations.
NJCRAC is an umbrella organization that coordinates policy for 114 Jewish community relations councils across the country and 11 of the largest national Jewish organizations. In the past, it has helped shape national Jewish policy relating to Soviet Jewry.
Morris Abram, chairman of the NCSJ, said at a news conference Monday that the National Conference is now “the final ultimate authority” in the movement on behalf of Soviet Jewry in America. Abram added that the NCSJ will work with NJCRAC and other groups in matters relating to Soviet Jews.
According to the new plan, the National Conference will communicate directly with individual communities across the country when it wishes to organize local activities relating to Soviet Jewry.
Such communications are to be done in cooperation with NJCRAC, which will continue to serve as “community coordinator for Soviet Jewry.”
To increase coordination between the two groups, the plan calls for:
NCSJ and NJCRAC to have adjoining offices or be located in the same building;
the NJCRAC chairperson to serve as vice president of NCSJ, as well as some overlap of leadership on the two organizations’ executive committees; and
NJCRAC representation on National Conference delegations meeting with government officials.
Dan Shapiro, CJF vice president and chairman of the CJF Committee on Soviet Jewry Advocacy, said that CJF will encourage the utmost use of NJCRAC’s experience, resources and relationships, especially pertaining to the areas of community service and coordination with the local community federations and their Soviet Jewry programs.
The CJF announced that the projected 1988 budget for the restructured Soviet Jewry advocacy program is $1.22 million, which includes additional projected expenditures of $3,000 for office space, personnel, travel, programs and miscellaneous items.
Albert Chernin, executive vice chairman of NJCRAC, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that “this new formulation of the NCSJ and the special relationship with NJCRAC is something that we actively participated in negotiating. We fully anticipate that the conference and NJCRAC will find the means within this special relationship to advance the advocacy efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry.
“What this relationship does,” he continued, “is make the NCSJ the undisputed spokesman for Soviet Jewry, and we have always seen it in that role since its creation in 1973. It also acknowledges the role of NJCRAC as the instrumentality for community coordination, which has been our role on all community relations issues since our creation in 1944,” he said.
“We are entering this relationship on the basis of good faith,” he added, “and we are confident that we will be able to work out our day-to-day working relationships in a way that will be responsive to the needs and concerns of the conference and NJCRAC, and most importantly of Soviet Jewry.”