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Operation Exodus: a Campaign Not for Millionaires Only

The United Jewish Appeal’s Operation Exodus campaign has gotten off to a running start among the ultra-wealthy. But its chairman, Marvin Lender, vowed Monday that the effort will not be for millionaires only.

In a speech to the group’s seventh National Young Leadership Conference, Lender promised that the $420 million effort to resettle Soviet Jews in Israel would be UJA’s most “broad-based campaign ever.

“We cannot not allow every American Jew to participate in this event,” he said.

Lender predicted that 26 UJA contributors of a million dollars or more will have given the campaign $85 million to $100 million by the end of the year.

The campaign was kicked off by a “millionaires meeting” on Feb. 28, hosted by clothing retailer Leslie Wexner. The meeting, which raised $58 million, took in contributions from 16 of the 26 million-dollar donors.

A successful campaign “will send the message to Soviet Jews, to the Soviet government and to our own group, that Jews stand up for Jews, that we rely on one another,” Lender said.

The campaign is designed to raise the money in one year to be paid out over three years. But Lender said Monday that if the influx of Soviet Jews increases above initial expectations, the campaign could be extended to four years.

Lender expressed some concern about general awareness of the issue of Soviet emigration.

“There arc more Jews in the United States that know nothing about what we are talking about than those who do,” he said.

CONGRESSIONAL FREEDOM SEDER PLANNNED

To help raise national awareness of Operation Exodus, the UJA and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry arc planning a Congressional Freedom Seder on April 3.

Another speaker at the Young Leadership Conference, Arnon Mantver, who is director general of absorption at the Jewish Agency, agreed with Lender that U.S. Jews must “feel that they arc involved” in the resettlement.

He said Jewish Agency officials arc ironing out new programs for U.S. Jewish communities to “twin” with Israeli municipalities that arc absorbing new Soviet emigres.

The twinned American community will be able to have “hands-on involvement and impact on what’s happening,” but it “will be a different type of a model” than Project Renewal, Mantver said.

Project Renewal matches American Jewish communities with Israeli development towns, which received varying amounts of support from their U.S. counterparts.

Lender said that Operation Exodus “should not be perceived as a campaign to just raise $420 million.”

Rather it is “part of an international campaign to raise $600 million,” a reference to a parallel $180 million campaign waged by Keren Hayesod, UJA’s affiliate outside the United States.

That $600 million “is part of a resettlement program in Israel of $3.6 billion,” Lender added, which will “resettle, at a minimum, over 200,000 Jews over the next couple of years.”

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