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Jewish Agency powwow this month

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The Jewish Agency will hold its Board of Governors meetings at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, June 22-25.

The 121-member board, which meets three times a year in Israel, has several important issues on its agenda, according to Jewish Agency insiders.

Primarily, the Agency board will take a hard look at its budget. The Agency, which takes in most of its revenue stream in dollars, has been hit hard by the falling greenback. Its income has stayed relatively stagnant, but costs in Israel and overseas have skyrocketed. The dollar, simply, not only does not stretch as far as it used to; it is shrinking, putting the Agency in a budget crunch.

The board will only have preliminary discussions about the brewing crisis at this meeting. Said one source, “It is till too early to say where things are headed, except that any person with a brain and head on his shoulders knows that the dollar is not worth 4.5 shekels anymore. It is worth 3.3.”

The falling dollar is putting more pressure on the Agency’s North American Council to raise extra money from the North American Jewish federation system, on top of the annual allocation the Agency receives from the United Jewish Communities. The Agency, like its overseas counterpart, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, could have some difficult decisions to make. Rumor has it that the JDC is facing layoffs.

The Agency will not pass its 2009 budget until November. Its entire Delegates Assembly will meet four days before the UJC’s General Assembly, which will be held in Jerusalem this year from Nov. 16-19. There, a preliminary budget will be passed. The Board of Governors will then meet Nov. 19-20 and will ratify the budget.

Also on the agenda for the meeting later this month, the Agency’s Unity of the Jewish People subcommittee will be taking a hard look at the conversion issue.

In other news … Last week, the Agency presented its “Flex Aliyah” plan to the Knesset’s Immigration and Absorption Committee. Flex aliyah, which some in the organization are calling “trial aliyah,” would allow potential immigrants a longer temporary stay in Israel before deciding if they want to make aliyah.

Here’s the press release:

Friday, June 6, 2008
JEWISH AGENCY INTRODUCES ‘FLEXIBLE ALIYAH’ MODEL AT KNESSET
Prospective immigrants will be given ‘temporary resident’ status for up to several years

The Jewish Agency wants the Israeli government to consider a new plan which would allow Jews who are considering moving to Israel a longer period to stay in the country as temporary residents before applying for full citizenship, Jewish Agency Director General Moshe Vigdor told the Knesset’s Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora Committee earlier this week.

The new plan, which is being worked out with the Interior Ministry and the Ministry Immigrant Absorption, will allow Jews to live in Israel for up to several years before taking on the status of new immigrant (“oleh”) and becoming Israeli citizens. During this time, the prospective immigrant would be able to see how life in Israel is as he or she acclimates in the Israeli workplace, pursues further education, finds housing, etc. The Knesset committee expressed its support for the new plan.

“The goal of this plan is help people make the decision to move to Israel,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski.

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