A summary of the achievements of the 34th General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, which closed its five-day session here yesterday, was presented at the closing session by Philip Bernstein, CJFWF executive director.
The organized Jewish communities, Mr. Bernstein said, this year not only examined what they should do, how it should be done, and how it can be done best, but gave special attention to the “why” and “what for”–why these activities should be conducted at all, and why by the Jewish community; and for what purposes and goals.
“This,” he emphasized, “reflected in part, reconsideration of the relevance of what Jewish community organizations do to the prime issues of the times — Jewish, American and Canadian, and worldwide. And the Assembly looked particularly at what Judaism uniquely can bring to the resolution of these issues. It was said that the great momentum and success of federations and welfare funds should not ignore the problems underneath.” Among the clarifications in the Assembly discussions, Mr. Bernstein said, were the following:
1) The extension of government services and of non-sectarian programs often pressed Jewish agencies to do more, not less. They open up new opportunities for Jewish services rather than only close-existing ones.
2) Within the Jewish community, it is not necessary to eliminate or reduce some services in order to increase or create others. For example, the extension of Jewish education need not be at the price of rehabilitation. Each service should be maintained, increased or decreased in relation to needs, opportunities and possibilities for productive action.
3) Additional funds often are the answer to problems, but not always. “We must know what to do with the funds, be ready to use them effectively, and have the skilled personnel to do so,” Mr. Bernstein stressed.
“The agenda of the Assembly itself was a concrete answer in part to the question of relevance of Judaism to the prime issues of our time,” he declared. “The Assembly dealt with the challenge of poverty — in a society and generation which, for the first time in history, has the power to eradicate poverty, and with a challenge to the Jewish community to help lead in that war as part of the unique religious commitment of Judaism.”
EMERGENCE OF JEWISH LEADERSHIP IN ANTI-POVERTY PROGRAMS NOTED
The Assembly examined specifically the issues which have arisen in achieving the purposes of the anti-poverty programs, and noted the emergence of Jewish leadership in dealing with them in a number of cities through the action of federation leaders as chairmen and members of community-wide anti-poverty boards; the use of Jewish agencies in conducting anti-poverty programs, and in other ways.
Just as “the federation in many ways is the heart and conscience of the Jewish community, so it must be part of the heart and conscience of the total community,” Jewish community leaders stated.
The Assembly dealt with “social injustices” to the aged that should be overcome by the new Medicare program. Delegates were concerned with not only what the effects might be on Jewish hospitals, homes for the aged, and the federations themselves but, even more, on what Jewish agencies can do to make sure that the Medicare program will work well, with emphasis on first-quality medicine, and with a minimum of mistakes.
The discussions noted the possibilities of increased care by Jewish institutions, greater costs and income, the need for more personnel, more mental-patient care and more home-care services. Possible changes in homes for aged may involve short-term convalescence as well as continuous lifetime care and more medical service. Overall, there should be greater integration of all health services.
The Assembly discussed changing patterns of financing Jewish hospitals by federations. There is a widespread pattern of grants to meet specific purposes rather than to deal with the deficits of the hospitals. The grants are for social services, for training and education and to assure particularly the highest quality of medical care, which can make the difference between life and death.
The Assembly examined the major overseas needs in 1966, in terms of North American Jewish responsibilities. Continued large-scale immigration and greater emphasis on bringing dependent recent settlers in Israel to self-support were stressed. This is against the background of the hardships caused by the loss of $7,000,000 in German material claims funds to the Joint Distribution Committee in 1965, to be aggrevated further by the loss of $10,000,000 in 1966 because of the ending of German material claims grants to the Jewish Agency for Israel-Jerusalem. The Assembly dealt likewise with the added opportunities and responsibilities of greater immigration to the United States, made possible by the new immigration law, and the agreements for entry of Cuban refugees, and similar opportunity for entry of Jewish immigrants into Canada.
CHANGING CHARACTER OF AMERICAN JEWISH COMMUNITY EXAMINED
The Assembly examined the changing character of the American Jewish community itself. It dealt with the question: “Is the American Jew really vanishing?” It concluded that the facts regarding the extent, nature and effects of intermarriage are inadequate.
The national Jewish population survey projected by the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds is intended to overcome these gaps in information. The Assembly discussions noted further that intermarriage, however, is the Jewish education, and in other factors which lead to a lack of conviction about the importance of Judaism’s content, and about the value of remaining part of the Jewish people.
Workshops assessed American Jewish cultural development nationally and locally. The progress and potentials revealed in the development of scholarships, establishment of university chairs of Judaic studies, research and publications should be extended further, it was felt, through development of a master plan by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, to set priorities, and help overcome the fragmentation in this field.
The Assembly gave special attention to cultural developments locally within communities themselves through scholarship and research, high-quality adult education programs, publications, libraries and archives, with federation leadership and assistance.
KEY ELEMENTS UNDER SCORED IN DISCUSSIONS ON FUND-RAISING
The Assembly discussions of fund-raising to finance the above and other services underscored the key elements of top gifts, example-setting contributions by members of boards of federations and of their beneficiary agencies, solicitor training, careful analysis of previous campaign strengths and weaknesses, and year-around involvement of many people in the work of federations and their agencies.
Stress was given likewise to the importance of building much more widespread understanding. A committee of the CJFWF brought to the Assembly a preliminary 10-point program for this purpose, involving both national and community action. The Assembly also dealt with the key role of leadership as the foundation for all of these activities. A record number of participants were involved in the leadership development discussions, both men and women, including a series of discussions by women’s groups and by young people at the Assembly.
“The forward thrust of the leadership development session showed how far communities have traveled in a few years from the efforts just to acquaint young people with what is being done to a concern now with the purposes, the values, and the relevance of what we do to those values, bringing a depth to our work that will challenge and attract the best of our young men and women,” Mr. Bernstein emphasized. “The Council’s national committee on leadership development projected a program the will explore the great issues of our time in the context of Jewish history, ethics and experience.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.