San Francisco is First to Launch Separate Drive for Resettlement
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San Francisco is First to Launch Separate Drive for Resettlement

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San Francisco’s Jewish federation has become the first to announce a separate fund-raising campaign to meet the costs of sharply increased Soviet emigration.

The Bay area’s Jewish Community Federation moved this week to mount a $2.7 million Soviet resettlement drive above its combined annual campaign of $20 million, the Northern California Jewish Bulletin reported.

San Francisco is one of seven U.S. communities hardest hit by the largest wave of Soviet Jewish emigration to the United States in nine years. The others are Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and the North Shore communities of Massachusetts.

For weeks federation leaders in those cities have been petitioning leaders of the United Jewish Appeal and Council of Jewish Federation to come up with a nationwide strategy for dealing with the high costs of resettling as many as 35,000 Soviet Jews who are expected to be allowed out of the Soviet Union in 1989.

Rabbi Brian Lurie, executive director of the San Francisco federation, told the Jewish Bulletin that the federation is already facing a deficit of $500,000 because of the refugee influx. He said their needs are too pressing to wait for a decision to mount a national drive.

UJA and CJF officials stress that a separate campaign is only one of a number of ideas being discussed to meet resettlement costs.

Carmi Schwartz, executive vice president of CJF, said the federations and UJA have been “working on a multi-pronged, comprehensive program, including serious cost reductions for resettlement domestically and in terms of care and maintenance overseas.”

Schwartz said the federations are exploring the possibility of offering some aid to arriving immigrants in the form of a loan, rather than an outright grant. Plans with UJA for a “global, comprehensive” fund-raising campaign are only in the “developmental process,” he said.


A UJA spokesman said, “We are exploring the advisability of a special campaign.”

In 173 federated communities, UJA and federation campaigns are run jointly, and the monies raised are divided between local and overseas needs.

San Francisco is the only one of the seven hardest-hit cities to announce a special campaign.

In Los Angeles, however, major donors are being asked to supplement their annual gifts on behalf of resettlement, according to Wayne Feinstein, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation Council.

The Los Angeles federation has also cut back allocations for other local needs by 8 percent, in anticipation of the arrival of 3,500 to 4,500 Soviet Jews and hundreds of Iranian Jews.

In New York, where 48 percent of Soviet Jews coming to the United States resettle, the UJA-Federation board of directors will meet Thursday to plot strategy, but no decision is expected until mid-February, according to a spokesperson.

The Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston is “waiting for a national planning effort,” Barry Shrage, executive vice president, said in a telephone interview. “We’re very hopeful about being part of a national effort.”

Federation leaders say there are precedents for a special national campaign, most recently in 1984 and 1985, when Jewish communities raised $60 million for the resettlement in Israel of Ethiopian Jews.


But a drive on behalf of resettlement in the United States could face opposition from fundraisers who have long placed Israel at the center of their efforts.

In addition, American Jewish leaders feel a responsibility to combat a high “dropout” rate by Soviet Jews, 90 percent of whom choose to live in the United States and countries other than Israel.

There may also be objections to the effect of a separate campaign on the annual UJA campaign, although proponents say special campaigns have traditionally increased the “total commitment” of individual donors.

The American fund-raising tradition of aiding refugees is also expected to be a powerful argument for a special campaign.

After spending years advocating on behalf of Soviet Jews, the present exodus is “a miracle and a wonderful opportunity,” said the spokesperson for UJA-Federation in New York. “This is a major problem in terms of funds, but an opportunity and a mitzvah.”

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