NEW YORK (Nov. 3)
The Jewish Agency for Israel’s fiscal crisis appears to have been alleviated after the passage of the 1997 budget by the agency’s Board of Governors.
The board, meeting in Jerusalem last week, approved a 1997 operating budget of $400 million. It projects an income that will exceed expenditures for the first time in years, triggering optimism that the agency has stabilized.
The budget crisis “cast a pall over the last Board of Governors’ meetings” in June, said Dr. Conrad Giles, an agency board member and president-designate of the Council of Jewish Federations. In contrast, “there is a renewed sense of optimism and a feeling we’re on the right track,” he said.
The agency is the primary recipient in Israel of funds raised by the joint annual campaign of the United Jewish Appeal and federations.
Strapped by yawning deficits caused in part by several years of declining allocations from flat campaigns, the agency is entering the second year of a five-year fiscal reform and recovery program that calls for $500 million in cumulative savings.
The budget passed last week reflects the second year of cuts totaling $110 million. More than half of the cuts came from a government agreement made a year ago to take over the bulk of the Youth Aliyah program, the network of residential villages for immigrant youth.
Agency sources said a key factor in the healthy projections for 1997 was concluding some outstanding parts of that agreement which freed up $42 million that now can go toward immigrant absorption programs.
One program being expanded for prospective immigrants is called Selah, which provides education and training for 17- to 20-year- olds from the former Soviet Union. It had been providing pre-university academic training for 400 youths and will expand to provide vocational and technical training and serve 900 participants.
Some of the savings for the agency came from last week’s agreement by the government to keep its responsibility and funding for half of the Student Authority. This authority pays for higher education for immigrants and is jointly funded by the Jewish Agency.
Last year, the government had said it would transfer its half of the responsibility for the authority to the agency in exchange for taking over Youth Aliyah.
“The supporters of the Jewish Agency in the Diaspora feel they’re beginning to make a difference,” said Charles “Corky” Goodman, chairman of the agency’s Board of Governors.
“We’ve stabilized the Jewish Agency, we’re finishing the budgetary cutting and can now begin to address a brighter future for the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora.”