Behind the Headlines Uja’s Priority Now: Collect Cash and Focus on 1991 General Campaign

Cash now.

That is the message being delivered to Jewish community federations across the country from the United Jewish Appeal.

Instead of hurrying to follow up on the tremendous success of Operation Exodus with another special campaign for Soviet Jewry, UJA, in consultation with the federations, has determined that sending cash at the fastest rate possible would be the best way to assist Israel with the flood of Soviet immigrants arriving there.

UJA’s “first priorities” now, according to a recent UJA report, are collecting cash for Operation Exodus, collecting cash for UJA’s 1990 regular campaign and launching the 1991 regular campaign, whose goal will be $800 million.

Most of the actual fund raising for Operation Exodus has already been completed, just nine months after the special campaign was first announced.

While cash collection is supposed to take place over the next year, UJA could theoretically begin raising funds for a new special campaign for Soviet Jewish resettlement.

But UJA has made a deliberate decision not to do so, at least in the immediate coming months.

Stanley Horowitz, UJA’s president, told federation leaders attending the quarterly meetings of the Council of Jewish Federations here earlier this month that he did not foresee beginning a new special campaign until “the first of April at the earliest and August at the latest.”

A $109 MILLION DEFICIT

The dire need for cash is clear as the Jewish Agency for Israel, burdened with the responsibility of assisting the absorption of scores of thousands of Soviet Jews, faces a deficit of $109 million this year. Predictions of the number of Soviet Jews entering Israel are only climbing, meaning that no relief for the Jewish Agency budget is in sight.

American Jewish communities have responded to the emergency by pledging over $400 million of the Operation Exodus goal of $420 million so far.

Of that amount, UJA hopes to have sent $140 million in cash to the Jewish Agency by Sept. 30, and it is hoped that the rest of the $420 million can be delivered by the end of 1992 fiscal year.

If all goes well, the numbers are likely to be even higher. Some individual communities have exceeded their Operation Exodus goals, and it is thought that in the end, Operation Exodus will have raised as much as $600 million.

Not all of that money is going to Israel, however.

Though UJA is promoting it as strictly a campaign for resettlement of Jews in Israel, Operation Exodus appears to have evolved into a dual campaign for both overseas and domestic resettlement.

A CJF study indicates that a majority of communities, approximately 75 percent, are using Operation Exodus money to fund domestic resettlement needs, as well.

At the CJF quarterly meetings, there was a definite shift in focus from Exodus toward the 1991 regular campaign. There are several reasons why both UJA and local federations are concerned about spotlighting the regular campaign.

The two chief beneficiaries of the UJA regular campaign are the Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, both of which are in a severe financial crunch.

JDC BUDGET IS STRAPPED

While Operation Exodus largely funds the Immigration and Absorption Department of the Jewish Agency, its other departments rely on the regular campaign to fund services for groups other than the Soviet immigrants.

The Joint Distribution Committee’s budget has been strained in the last two years by having to provide care and maintenance for the thousands of Soviet Jewish emigres who were stranded in European transit centers, such as Ladispoli, Italy.

Now, JDC is hard hit by the crisis in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, where some 15,000 Jews are waiting for permission to emigrate. JDC is providing shelter, medical relief and other aid to the refugees, who fled their homes in the northern province of Gondar.

Last, but not least, there are a myriad of nursing homes, Jewish family services, religious schools and other local service agencies that depend on the success of the federations’ regular campaign.

Federation leaders are hoping that Operation Exodus will have a positive effect on overall giving, rather than draining donors of their resources and their willingness to contribute.

“Because of Exodus, we have brought people into the campaign,” said Joel Tauber of Detroit, UJA national vice chairman.

The biggest concern among federations in regard to the campaign is not, in fact, that donors will feel “tapped out” because of Operation Exodus. Their greatest worry is that the tightening economy and anticipation of a recession will make those in the Jewish community more cautious about giving in general.

While not all parts of the country have been affected, the slowed economy has already had an impact on giving, said Tauber.

UJA REMAINS OPTIMISTIC

“What you are seeing this year is a campaign devoid of our normal gifts from the real estate industry,” he said, pointing out that in some communities, real estate gifts account for as much as a quarter of the federation’s income.

Still, UJA remains optimistic, as is evident in its decision to hike the 1991 general campaign goal up to $800 million, from the $765 million that the 1990 campaign is expected to raise.

There was a visible air of weariness at the CJF quarterly meetings over the realization that there is no end in sight to the demands being put on world Jewry to assist the continued absorption of Soviet Jews in Israel.

But there was also a willingness to continue to meet those needs. All the fund-raisers present seemed to accept that, as Horowitz put it, the resettlement of Soviet Jews “will be our primary goal for years.”

Because of Sukkot and the Columbus Day holidays, the JTA Daily News Bulletin will not be published on Friday, Oct. 5, or Monday, Oct. 8.

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