Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Special Interview More Confident About Project Renewal

January 30, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Irving Bernstein, executive vice chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, is leaving Israel today “much more confident then when I came” regarding the prospects of Project Renewal, the ambitious joint government Jewish Agency-UJA program to rehabilitate some 160 slum areas around the country.

In an interview last night with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Bernstein said he felt that even Housing Minister David Levy, who had voiced harsh criticism of the project, was now “realizing the potential” of the project and understanding, too, the benefit that would accrue from the active participation of diaspora Jewry in its implementation.

Bernstein stressed that UJA and other diaspora leaders, who had undertaken to raise funds for Project Renewal, did not seek to foist their views or opinions upon Israeli officials. They only wanted to involve diaspora Jews “who are experts in the fields of housing, education; urban planning slum renewal, child welfare, to meet with Israelis, in the planning stages of the project, and give of themselves and of their expertise by way of advice and consultation.”


Bernstein mode this point in a frank conversation with Levy yesterday afternoon–and came away feeling “that if the conversation had taken place before the morning’s Cabinet meeting, Mr. Levy would not have voted the way he did.” (Levy led the opposition in the Cabinet to the ratification of a policy document on Project Renewal drawn up by Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin and United Israel Appeal chairman Jerold Hoffberger.)

Bernstein also met yesterday with Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich and said he came away from both conversations feeling buoyed. The misunderstandings that had overshadowed Project Renewal before seemed to be dissipating, Bernstein felt. And now, he said, there was a good deal more unanimity regarding the modalities of making it a success.

Arguing the benefits of direct and close involvement by diaspora Jewish specialists, Bernstein said: no country, not even the U.S. itself, has a totality of expertise often the objectivity and dispassionate approach of an outsider attains insights that escape local people.

Bernstein also stressed Project Renewal’s potential as a means of “turning on” diaspora Jewry to a concrete and tangible Zionist challenge He felt this consideration, too, had made itself more deeply felt among the Israeli Cabinet during this past weekend of serious deliberations.

Recommended from JTA