NEW YORK (Jan. 16)
National officers of the United Jewish Appeal unanimously, agreed at a meeting Monday afternoon to mount a massive fund-raising drive for the absorption of Soviet Jews in Israel.
But they have not yet set a dollar amount or a time frame for the special campaign.
“There was a sense at the meeting that the incoming immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel in the past several weeks suggests that more than $350 million would be needed,” said a spokesman for UJA.
“The dollar goal has yet to be set for the campaign, as well as the time period. The amount is to be determined based on the best estimate of need,” he said.
A delegation of top UJA leaders will be in consultation with national officers throughout the week to decide on a figure for what they call Operation Exodus. The figure is to be announced at a news conference Friday.
UJA assists Jewish federations around the country in raising funds for overseas needs. Funds earmarked for Israel are provided to the United Israel Appeal, which serves as the U.S. representative of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
The Jewish Agency is a non-governmental body that provides a number of social services in Israel, including the absorption of immigrants.
The special UJA campaign was a prime topic of discussion during a meeting of the board of the United Israel Appeal on Tuesday afternoon, and it was expected to be the focus of a meeting here Wednesday of the Jewish Agency Executive.
“This is a process,” said Jerry Strober, spokesman for the Jewish Agency. “There are several meetings going on, and we have to await the outcome of the process.”
BALLPARK FIGURE AROUND $500 MILLION
But Rabbi Daniel Allen, assistant executive vice chairman of UIA, provided an insight into what the final figure might be.
“The original estimate was that 100,000 Soviet Jews were expected to make aliyah in five years, with a $2 billion budget, $350 million of which was to be raised by UJA.
“If that figure is for 100,000 Soviet Jews, what does it mean for a volume of 250,000 to 500,000 Soviet Jews now expected to be arriving in the next five to six years? Figure it out.
“I’m not saying that it’s directly proportional,” said Allen, “but it’s clear that the dollar value will have to go up significantly.”
A source closely involved in the meetings taking place suggested that a ballpark figure for Operation Exodus would fall somewhere between $450 million and $500 million, to be raised over a five-year period.
“I don’t think it’s enough,” the source said, “but it’s probably a realistic assessment of what the American Jewish community can raise.”
UJA is confident it can raise whatever is required. “Whatever the final figure and whatever the time period will be, we’re going to raise the funds,” said the UJA spokesman.