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Wizo Head Describes Program to Teach Soviet Newcomers How to Live in Free Society

June 9, 1972
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Soviet Jewish families, emerging from a regulated society into a free one, must be taught a new way of life and this includes such mundane matters as how to shop and how to use a kitchen that is one’s own and not shared with two or three other families. Helping the emigre families adjust is only one of the thousands of tasks performed in Israel by Wizo–the Women’s International Zionist Organization, according to its president, Mrs. Raya Jaglom, who talked to American reporters here yesterday.

Mrs. Jaglom addressed a press conference at the home of Ambassador and Mrs. Yosef Tekoah, Ambassador Tekoah is Israel’s envoy to the United Nations and his wife is a member of the World Wizo Executive. Mrs. Jaglom said Wizo had more than 250,000 members in 50 nations. It maintains in Israel a network of 540 institutions and services at an annual cost of $12-$13 million, 53 percent of which is raised in Israel.

Wizo does not operate in the US under terms of an agreement with its sister organization, Hadassah. But where it does operate. “We are recognized as the strongest Zionist organization in that country,” Mrs. Jaglom said, Without Wizo’s educational and cultural programs, Jewish life would be appreciably diminished in the many diaspora lands, she said. While Mrs. Jaglom did not say so, she implied that Wizo’s strength lay in its non-political nature. Wizo’s 90,000 members in Israel represent every shade of the political spectrum but “Wizo itself is the only non-political group in Israel,” she noted.

The services it provides are directed primarily for the benefit of Jewish children, youth and women in Israel. But the Wizo program has been expanded to extend many of the same services to the Arab population, Mrs. Jaglom said.

She recalled that shortly after the Six-Day War, Wizo opened an experimental women’s club in East Jerusalem for Arab women to teach them Hebrew and such vocational skills as sewing and embroidery. Seventy Arab women showed up on the first day and Wizo immediately opened a day care center for their children, Mrs. Jaglom said. Seven more clubs for Arab women have been added during the past five years, she said.

Many of the beneficiaries of Wizo services in Israel are Jews of Oriental origin who have large families and are often economically disadvantaged. “Nearly 70 percent of the children in day care centers are Oriental Jews,” she said. But their numbers fall off sharply in the schools “because of their background. Their parents can provide them with no help in their school work” and Wizo provides vocational training for those children who are unable to continue their general education.

Wizo also seeks to provide work for immigrants and to expedite their social integration. Entertainment, lectures, music programs and evenings devoted to discussions of their problems are scheduled at Wizo clubs and the immigrants are invited to visit Israeli homes on the Sabbath and holidays. Wizo also runs vocational training centers in Jerusalem for girls over 12 who have found no place in the organized educational frame-work for psychological or other reasons. It maintains nurses training schools and rest homes for women which provide vacations for the mothers of large, needy families, Mrs. Jaglom said.

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