WASHINGTON (Apr. 13)
Israel will receive a larger share of the $75 million being raised to aid the resettlement of Soviet Jews, under an agreement hammered out Wednesday by the Jewish Agency for Israel, the United Jewish Appeal and the Council of Jewish Federations.
The deal was announced Wednesday afternoon in a joint statement by Mendel Kaplan, chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, and Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency Executive.
The statement was issued after a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive convened to discuss the $75 million “Passage to Freedom” campaign begun earlier this year to meet the needs of Soviet Jews immigrating both to Israel and the United States.
High-level UJA and CJF officials sit on the Jewish Agency Executive.
The meeting was held in the wake of angry comments Sunday by Dinitz, in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that Israel was being treated as a “junior partner” in the nationwide fund-raising effort on behalf of Soviet emigres.
Dinitz said that rather than receiving half of the funds raised in the special campaign, as promised, Israel is actually receiving only 25 percent.
The special campaign was begun in March to help pay the costs of resettling the thousands of Soviet Jews who have been pouring out of the Soviet Union this year.
The Executive agreed Wednesday to an “adjustment” of how monies raised in the campaign are to be distributed between Israel and the United States.
NYANA FUNDS SWITCHED
According to the original terms of the campaign, half of the funds raised were to remain in the United States to help the cities expecting the largest influx of immigrants.
The other half was to be used for “overseas needs,” which included not only absorption of Jews in Israel, but the work done by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Italy, a way station for Soviet emigres, and by the New York Association for New Americans in the United States.
NYANA has been handling 55 percent of the Soviet Jews arriving in the United States. Although its services are technically domestic, the agency has been a recipient of UJA overseas funds since 1949.
To ensure that the major share of the special campaign’s $37.5 million for overseas operations goes to Israel, funds slated for NYANA will be met from the U.S. portion of the $75 million.
In New York, Mark Handelman, executive vice president of NYANA, said the adjustment will not affect the agency, since its yearly needs are already assured by a committee made up of JDC and United Israel Appeal representatives.
While the debate in Washington appeared to be a technical wrangle over funds, it was actually a reflection of deeper concerns over the principles of Zionism itself.
Jewish leaders in Israel and the Diaspora alike agree that Israel should be the destination of all Jews, especially, but not exclusively, those being persecuted. However, only 10 percent of the Jews leaving the Soviet Union are choosing to live in Israel.
As Dinitz made clear in his interview with JTA, Israelis fear that by using the UJA mechanism to pay for resettling Jews in the United States, American fund-raisers and contributors are undermining the centrality of Israel.