NEW YORK (Nov. 21)
Leaders of Jewish community federations across the United States have agreed to continue funding the resettlement of Soviet Jews in this country in a way that distributes the financial responsibility among all Jewish communities.
The agreement on collective responsibility, adopted last week during the Council of Jewish Federations General Assembly in San Francisco, essentially renews an accord reached last February in Miami, at a meeting convened specifically to deal with resettlement issues.
Under the plan, each federation is responsible for settling a specific number of emigres, determined by the size of the community and the amount of money it raised during its 1989 general fund-raising campaign.
If the community does not settle that number, it must contribute $1,000 to a national pool for each Soviet Jew it does not absorb. The money in the national pool is then distributed to the communities resettling more than their “fair share” of Soviet immigrants.
The collective responsibility program was developed, “because Jewish tradition has always linked communities together,” explained Bernard Olshansky, CJF assistant executive vice president.
“We live in a continental society, and there was a need to recognize the responsibility beyond our individual communities, to make it a cooperative effort,” he said.
121 COMMUNITIES PARTICIPATED
A total of 121 communities participated in the program this past year, out of about 141 that were eligible to do so, and CJF executives hope that more will take part next year.
Those U.S. federations that did not participate chose not to because “some of the smaller communities felt that they couldn’t afford it,” according to Jerry Levinrad, CJF director of refugee resettlement programs.
In fact, the collective responsibility program has proven to be most beneficial for the smaller communities, Levinrad said, making it easier for them to accept refugees and to increase their Jewish population.
The small communities are the least likely to have settled Soviet Jews during the last big wave of immigration, in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
And relatively few of the recent immigrants went to smaller communities, because nearly all of them had family members already living in larger communities here.
But now more U.S. visas are going to Soviet Jews without family members here, who, without the family support system waiting for them, cost more to resettle.
“This system encourages communities to take on more of those cases, so they will not have to put money into the kitty,” Levinrad explained.
The Fair Share Formula for Equitable Collective Responsibility, as it is formally know, also “allows some communities with very small populations to increase their populations by comparatively large percentages, as much as 4 or 5 percent,” Levinrad said.
The delegates in San Francisco also voted to create a leadership committee to report on all aspects of collective responsibility at next year’s General Assembly in Baltimore.