NEW YORK (Jun. 15)
With a sense of anticipation and a desire to understand and influence the decision-making process in the Jewish Agency for Israel, more than 350 United Israel Appeal delegates from some 40 communities throughout the United States are preparing to attend the annual Jewish Agency Assembly, to be held June 26 to 30 in Jerusalem.
“This is the largest UIA delegation to the assembly ever,” said Henry Taub, UIA chairman.
Irving Kessler, UIA executive vice chairman, pointed out that the number is especially impressive, because American delegates to the assembly pay for their own trip.
“The delegates,” he said, “want to find for themselves how their money is spent in Israel.”
According to Taub, the upcoming assembly has been generating a great deal of excitement among the delegates. Among the reasons for this growing interest, he said, is the newly elected leadership of the Jewish Agency and the process of change the agency has been undergoing in the last several years.
The assembly convenes in the early months of Mendel Kaplan’s tenure as chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors and not long after Simcha Dinitz was elected chairman of the World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency Executive.
“Both are unusually capable individuals,” Taub said, adding that Kaplan is the first non-American in the post. He lives about six months a year in Israel and six months a year in South Africa.
EVERYTHING ‘UNDER REVIEW’
What makes this assembly unique, asserted Kessler, is that “every major activity of the agency is under review and professional evaluation,” because the Jewish Agency has been trying to update and change its structure and ways of operation to meet the challenges of the time and the changing needs of Israeli society.
Taub and Kessler said that discussion about changes in the role of the Jewish Agency will focus on four main areas:
A proposal to turn the Jewish Agency’s absorption activities of new immigrants in Israel to the Israeli Ministry of Absorption.
Moving from rural to regional development, as recommended by a committee headed by reserve Maj. Gen. Meir Amit. The committee calls for a new settlement and development approach, with emphasis on whole regions, such as the Negev and the Galilee, to attract significant Jewish populations.
Jewish education and the future agency role in it, and the possible creation of a joint authority on Jewish education in the diaspora, to avoid duplication with the WZO programs.
Israel’s social needs, including the progress of Project Renewal, the community revitalization program sponsored by individual federations around the country.
With the declining power of the dollar in Israel in the last two years, a major topic of discussion at the assembly will be the Jewish Agency’s budget of about $400 million for 1988, Taub said.
During the five-day assembly, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres will address the meeting, which will be attended by more than 600 delegates from all over the world.