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New Campaign Exhorts Israelis to Donate Funds

In a television advertising campaign launched this month, Israelis are being asked for the first time to donate to a program for elderly Jews run by the Jewish Agency for Israel.

The Israel campaign, hopes Avraham Burg, chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, will eventually become the Israeli counterpart of the United Jewish Appeal.

It’s a conceptual shift aimed at forging a more equitable partnership between Israeli and Diaspora Jews, who provide more than half of the agency’s $400 million annual budget.

Coupled with the organization’s restructuring that went into effect at the beginning of the year, Burg and other JAFI officials hopes that the new campaign will boost Diaspora backing for the agency at a time when campaigns have been lagging and support for Israel has been hit by the still-unresolved crisis over religious pluralism issues.

“The rationale is that the public in Israel should join their sisters and brothers overseas, who have been included in fund raising for so many years,” said Joe Dushansky, executive director of the Israel campaign. “It means we are now going to have a relationship among equals.”

However some skeptics say it will take some time before the effects of the reforms on the Jewish Agency’s day-to-day operations can be seen or evaluated.

“The Israel campaign is designed to create an Israeli partner,” Burg said in an interview here. He said he would like to see 50,000 Israeli households raise $5 million to $8 million within five years.

According to initial figures provided by Dushansky, that goal may be reached much sooner.

Some 450 Israeli individuals have already donated more than $3 million in a face-to-face campaign launched last January. Most have asked to remain anonymous.

And thousands more have already responded to the campaign on Channel Two television, which contributed 112 free advertising slots.

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