World Jewry Being Asked to Raise $1.3 Billion More for Soviet Jews

The Jewish Agency Board of Governors has called on world Jewry to raise another $1.3 billion over the next three to five years to pay the cost of bringing 1 million Soviet Jews to Israel.

This sum is in addition to the $600 million already being raised for Soviet aliyah in the worldwide Operation Exodus campaign mounted by the United Jewish Appeal in the United States and in other countries by Keren Hayesod.

The call for additional funds was made last Thursday at the conclusion of the weeklong Board of Governors meeting here. Mendel Kaplan, who chairs the board, said “unconventional ways” would have to be found to raise the money, which the Jewish Agency needs to bring the immigrants and their belongings to Israel.

Over 200,000 Soviet Jews are expected to make aliyah during the 1990-91 fiscal year, and similar numbers are expected in the years following, said Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive.

In New York, UJA President Stanley Horowitz on Monday welcomed the challenge of helping raise the additional $1.3 billion.

“We’ve known for some time that Israel is expecting 1 million Soviet Jews, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that very, very substantial money would be involved,” he said.

“We feel privileged to have the opportunity to take part in this rescue operation. Every Jew understands the historic nature of this opportunity, and we are very optimistic about finding the right combination of programs to make these funds available.”

PLANNING TO BEGIN WITHIN WEEKS

Horowitz said the planning process for a new campaign has not yet begun, but he expects to assemble the necessary committee “within the next few weeks.” The fund-raising strategy will be hammered out “over the next several months,” he said.

Horowitz’s faith in the ability of the American Jewish community to raise the requested sums of money is rooted in the success of the Operation Exodus campaign.

As of this week, 90 percent of UJA’s $420 million Operation Exodus goal has been achieved, and UJA recently sent $130 million in cash from the campaign to the Jewish Agency.

“We know that the Operation Exodus campaign has been only the first phase. We know we have our work cut out for us,” Horowitz said.

In Jerusalem, Kaplan said that an “Exodus II” campaign would eventually be launched, but that only part of the extra $1.3 billion needed would be raised through philanthropy. “We are now looking for other financial instruments to be provided by Diaspora Jews,” he said, without elaborating.

For the first time, an international task force of Jewish financiers was convened by the Jewish Agency last week in Jerusalem, to develop new ways of financing the costs of the Soviet aliyah and absorption to be borne by the agency and the Israeli government.

It has been estimated that the long-term absorption costs for 1 million immigrants will be between $25 billion and $30 billion.

Members of the task force include the leaders of the United Jewish Appeal, Keren Hayesod and Israel Bonds, and such philanthropists as Max Fisher of Detroit, Charles Bronfman and Albert Reichman of Canada, and Ezra Safra of Geneva.

Dinitz said this task force, convened with the blessing of the Israeli government, will examine sources of funding such as loans, investments and grants by foreign governments.

Dinitz also reported that the Jewish Agency now has the capacity to move some 50,000 Soviet immigrants each month through various transit points in Eastern Europe, the main ones being Budapest, Warsaw and Bucharest, Romania.

(JTA staff writer Debra Nussbaum Cohen in New York contributed to this report.)

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