NEW YORK (Feb. 5)
Several representatives of the United Jewish Appeal, including its top leaders, will embark this week on a visit to the Soviet Jews who are waiting in Europe for entry to the United States.
The purpose of the trip is to determine as precisely as possible the full scope of these people’s needs, in order for the UJA to adequately and rapidly act in response to the flow of Soviet Jews that has been pouring into the Italian seaside town of Ladispoli.
Morton Kornreich, UJA national chairman, Martin Stein, chairman of its board of trustees, and Stanley Horowitz, UJA President, are going to Rome to meet with the Soviet Jews.
The financial resources of local Jewish federations and resettlement agencies have been stretched to the limit in the face of the largest Soviet Jewish emigration in nine years.
The different communities, particularly the cities affected by Soviet Jewish settlement, have been calling on UJA to spearhead a nationwide fund-raising campaign to help resettle the Soviet Jews in the United States.
Nearly 19,000 Jews emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1988, and between 30,000 and 40,000 are anticipated to leave in 1989.
The UJA has all but agreed on a special campaign to enable the Soviet Jewish “waitniks” in Ladispoli — whose numbers are estimated at 5,500 — to come to the United States.
Deliberations and agreements are expected to be finalized in the next several weeks, in meetings to be held in several U.S. cities and in teleconferences between cities, according to an informed UJA source.
ESTABLISHING A COMMITTEE
According to the source, Kornreich is putting together a committee of top UJA leaders that will establish the scope, goals and strategies of the campaign, which has been dubbed “Passage to Freedom.”
The various federations throughout the country now have to go through “a period of advice and consent,” the source said.
This will be carried out in many meetings throughout the country to agree on principles, among which is preservation of “an equitable distribution of the funds raised in a special campaign.
“While there is optimism that this will happen, it is not a foregone conclusion that this campaign will take place until all the federations sign on. For this there is a certain procedure,” the UJA source said.
It was stressed, moreover, that financial responsibility for the Soviet Jews would be shared by all federations, not just those in whose cities large numbers of Soviet Jews have settled.
UJA is hoping that one of the major motivating factors for donating would be the chance to respond to what might be “the last opportunity for a great Jewish migration.”
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the UJA’s service arm for Jews a broad, is reportedly at the point of being forced by economic straits to close the doors on Soviet Jewish clients at its transmigration centers in Italy.
Although Sylvia Hassenfeld, JDC president, said Thursday that the organization faces a huge deficit and will no longer be able to accept Soviet Jews after March 31, the UJA source assured the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “ways will be found. Nobody is going to fail the needs of the Russian Jews.”
A priority among the UJA leaders will be the establishment of an educational program to sensitize American Jews to the needs of Soviet Jewish resettlement both in the United States and in Israel.