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UJA Drive for Immigrants a Success, but Jewish Agency Faces Big Deficit

June 26, 1990
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An encouraging report on the progress of Operation Exodus, the special United Jewish Appeal campaign for Soviet Jewish aliyah, was overshadowed here Monday by forecasts of huge deficits in the Jewish Agency’s immigration and absorption budgets over the next two years.

The national chairman of UJA, Marvin Lender, told delegates to the annual Jewish Agency Assembly that Operation Exodus has raised about 75 percent of its target of $420 million, which is to be paid out over a three-year period. Keren Hayesod will raise another $180 million from Jewish communities outside the United States, for a combined total of $600 million.

“In less than four months,” said Lender, “we have raised $311 million. And by the end of September, we hope to be able to transfer this year’s share, $140 million, to the Jewish Agency.”

Lender pointed out that the pledges made to Operation Exodus, plus those made to the regular campaign (about $765 million) come to more than $1.1 billion.

Most of the money raised so far has been from “big givers,” he said, including 42 people who have given over $1 million each. “The last $109 million (of the $420 million goal) will be the hardest, and will take lots of work,” he said.

The fund-raising targets of Operation Exodus were set at the end off 1989, based on forecasts that about 70,000 Soviet Jews would make aliyah this fiscal year. Now, however, the Jewish Agency expects 150,000 newcomers to arrive this fiscal year from the Soviet Union.

The chairman of the agency’s Budget and Finance Committee, Norman Lipoff, told assembly delegates that the larger numbers mean a projected deficit of $280 million in the agency’s budget for this year and next — for a total of more than $600 million. The agency pays for the immigrants transportation costs, half of their initial absorption expenses and various social services.


Lipoff, who is also the new chairman of the United Israel Appeal, described this situation as a “substantial emergency.”

UJA leaders are reluctant to tamper with Operation Exodus at this point by raising targets in the middle of the campaign, which will be completed early next year. Israeli leaders, however, have been strongly urging UJA to raise more money this year for immediate aliyah and absorption needs.

Lipoff mentioned several alternatives for coping with the projected deficit that will be considered this week: cutting other agency programs, seeking increased U.S. government grants for absorption, raising more funds through Operation Exodus and reducing the agency’s share of absorption services, with the Israeli government picking up more of the tab.

The assembly delegates listened attentively to a report by a leader of the Vaad, the umbrella organization for Soviet Jewish groups formed last December. The Vaad delegation is attending the Jewish Agency Assembly for the first time.

Vaad leader Yosef Zissels said his organization stands for the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate, but also wants to “preserve Soviet Jewry as a national and cultural entity.”

He said the Vaad is setting up a network of offices and advisers all over the Soviet Union to “help inform Soviet Jews about Israel and to start their absorption in Israel while they wait in the Soviet Union.”

The Vaad will provide Hebrew courses, professional orientation and programs for children of prospective olim, he said.


Trevor Chinn, head of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors committee on Eastern Europe, said the agency now has 10 emissaries from Israel in the Soviet Union, and nine others have already completed their two-month terms.

Over the next two months, he said, 35 more emissaries will be dispatched, so that one will be stationed in every city with a large Jewish population.

The emissaries concentrate on preparing prospective olim for Israel, teaching Hebrew and developing Jewish identity.

Emissaries have run courses for 300 doctors in Moscow and 150 in Leningrad, to prepare them for Israel’s certification requirements. Groups of teachers have been sent to Israel to train them to teach Hebrew and Jewish history.

“The Jewish Agency,” Chinn said, “is becoming the most significant outside organization in the Soviet Union.”

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