American Jewish leaders have applauded a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in which he reaffirmed the importance of the financial contributions of Diaspora organizations to the State of Israel.
“We welcome the communication we have received from Prime Minister Rabin which reasserts the importance of the partnership between the State of Israel, its people and Diaspora Jewry,” read a joint statement issued by the leaders of the Council of Jewish federations, the United Jewish Appeal and the United Israel Appeal.
The statement was issued in response to a letter Rabin wrote last week to the three organizations clarifying Israel’s appreciation of the groups’ fund- raising efforts on behalf of the Jewish state.
Rabin addressed the letter to the CJF, UJA and UIA after Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Yossi Beilin, stated earlier in January that Israel has a strong economy and does not need Diaspora “charity.”
Beilin’s remarks, made in front of a recent gathering of the Women’s International Zionist Organization, caused a commotion both in Israel and the Diaspora.
Beilin subsequently was taken to task by Rabin, who defended the role of Diaspora Jewish organizations and their appeals for Israel.
In a letter dated Jan. 24, Rabin made clear to the leaders of the three American Jewish organizations that he in no way shares Beilin’s views.
In response, the Jewish leaders on Monday conveyed to Rabin their appreciation of his comments.
The joint statement was issued by CJF President Maynard Wishner, UJA Chairman Joel Tauber and UIA Chairman Norman Lipoff.
The three issued the statement during a meeting of the CJF being held in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“We have informed him (Rabin) that we are reaffirming our dedication to our participation in the building and further development of the Jewish state and the absorption of the continuing hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
“As indicated in the letter from the prime minister, we recognize the important role of Israel in Jewish identity in the Diaspora. We are committed to the continuation of our partnership in this critical historic enterprise,” the joint statement read.
In his letter, made available to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Rabin referred to recent statements made in Israel about the role of Jewish fund-raising campaigns overseas.
“The central role of the State of Israel is to serve as a sanctuary for Jews from distressed communities, as well as to present a challenge for Jews from developed countries who wish to build their homes here,” he wrote.
The immigrations from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, Yemen and other countries, Rabin wrote, “have placed and are placing before the State of Israel, the Jewish people and the various campaigns one of the greatest Zionist challenges since the state was established.
“I believe that the Jewish organizations in the Diaspora have a very important role to play in strengthening the Jewish and Zionist infrastructure of Jewish communities, and in the building and development of Israeli society.
“The involvement of Diaspora Jewry with Israel, its problems and accomplishments, is the key to reinforcing the relationship between us and deepening the connection of Diaspora Jews with Israel,” Rabin wrote.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has already distanced himself from Beilin’s remarks.
In several recent speeches and media appearances, Beilin has suggested that Israel’s current economic and political strength made the traditional form of United Jewish Appeal-Federation fund-raising obsolete.
He recommended the dismantling of the present UJA-to-Jewish Agency funding structure, in which the UIA serves as a middleman. He suggested that the funds raised would be better used to finance Jewish education in the Diaspora.