Jewish Agency may shut immigration dept.


The Jewish Agency’s director-general is proposing shutting down the agency’s aliyah department.

Facing budget shortfalls linked in part to the weak dollar, the Jewish Agency should shift resources away from aliyah and toward Jewish education and Israel programs for Diaspora youths, director-general Moshe Vigdor wrote in a position paper circulated last week, according to an agency official.

More than half of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s $320 million budget goes to the aliyah department. Because immigration to Israel is slowing significantly, the lopsided distribution of resources no longer makes sense, agency sources said. The Jewish Agency would still deal with aliyah, but on a smaller scale.

“The Jewish Agency is a dynamic organization which takes into consideration changes and trends within the Jewish world and the Jewish world in general,” spokesman Michael Jankelowitz told JTA.

“The commitment to aliyah in this organization is stronger than it was before,” said Jeff Kaye, director-general of the agency’s department of resource development and public affairs. He described the change as the “shifting of dollars from one type of activity or another in order to increase immigration.”

Vigdor’s plan, which would constitute a historic shift for the organization charged with facilitating immigration to Israel, would streamline the agency into two departments, focusing on Israel and the Diaspora. Aliyah activities would be absorbed by the Diaspora department, which would invest in informal education projects and short- and long-term visits by youth to Israel that sometimes lead to aliyah, agency sources said.

“It’s an idea that’s being floated,” Jankelowitz said. “Nothing’s been approved.”

Any such change would have to be approved by the Jewish Agency’s board of governors.

The plan envisions organizations like Nefesh B’Nefesh focusing on North American aliyah and the Ami organization continuing its work to bring French immigrants to Israel.

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