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Federations Taking Different Paths in ‘passage to Freedom’ Campaign

Jewish federations across the United Stated have so far raised $19 million, or 25 percent, of the $75 million the United Jewish Appeal hopes to collect in its “Passage to Freedom” campaign for Soviet Jewry, UJA officials announced Monday.

According to Marvin Lender, the New Haven, Conn., investor who chairs the campaign, the pace of giving so far exceeds that of UJA’s last “emergency” campaign, the 1984-85 “Operation Moses” drive on behalf of Ethiopian Jews.

In addition, said Lender, no American Jewish community has declined to take part in the campaign, which was launched in March to help pay for the resettlement of thousands of Soviet Jews in the United States and Israel.

But despite Lender’s optimistic assessment, made during a nationwide telephone conference call with Jewish editors and reporters Monday, there is evidence of a divergence between how the UJA and the local federations view the sometimes controversial campaign.

For UJA’s part, officials would prefer that all monies raised by the local communities be forwarded to the UJA. A monitoring committee will then divide the proceeds, allocating approximately half to impacted Jewish communities in the United States on a per capita basis and half to Israel and the overseas agencies involved in resettling Soviet Jews.

For example, the Jewish federations of New York and the North Shore communities of Massachusetts have agreed to forward 100 percent of the funds raised in their special campaigns to UJA. Both communities are among the seven expecting the largest proportional influx of Soviet Jews.

Such an arrangement was designed to protect UJA’s traditional role as an organization that raises money on behalf of Israel, while meeting the federations’ separate need for resettlement funds. Some 40,000 Soviet Jews are expected to leave the Soviet Union this year, with 90 percent headed for the United States.

SAN FRANCISCO TO RETAIN FUNDS

But some of the more than 200 local federations are charting a different course. In San Francisco, another of the “impacted seven,” the federation will use all the money it raises to resettle Soviet Jews locally, and cannot assure the UJA that there will be any money left over for overseas use.

“We’re not sending our money to New York,” Rabbi Brian Lurie, the federation’s executive director, told the Northern California Jewish Bulletin. “We’re taking care of our own need, which is disproportionate.”

A third example of how local federations are participating is found in Bergen Country, N.J., where the board of the United Jewish Community announced it would hold onto 50 percent of the funds for local needs and then remit the balance to the UJA. If Bergen should have any funds left over from the local portion, they will be distributed to federations among the “impacted seven.”

Asked Monday about these divergent paths, lender said he had only one understanding: “that all money will be forwarded to the UJA, and we’ll deal with the dollars based on the ground rules set up by the CJF monitoring committee.”

The Council of Jewish Federations, the umbrella organization of local community funds, staffs the multi-agency Monitoring and Accountability Committee that is overseeing the allocations process.

According to UJA President Stanley Horowitz, who took part in Monday’s conference call, CJF called on all the federated communities to participate in the campaign according to the “national plan.”

“If San Francisco deviates from that national plan,” Horowitz said, “they and the CJF will be in touch with one another.”

In the meantime, UJA will continue to include the money pledged to the San Francisco campaign — to date $1,1 million –in its tally of funds raised in the national campaign.

The “Passage to Freedom” campaign has been controversial since its inception. Despite enormous local needs — San Francisco estimates it will need $2.7 million to resettle 1,500 additional Soviet Jews — American Jews have voiced ambivalence about raising money for Soviet Jews who have opted not to settle in Israel.

Different approaches to “Passage to Freedom,” especially if other cities follow San Francisco’s lead, will make final accounting difficult and may threaten UJA’s pledge to ensure a sizable allocation to the Jewsh Agency for the absorption of Soviet Jews in Israel.

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