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June 17, 1983 - Image 72

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-06-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

72 Friday, June 11, 1983


Fisher Seeks Re-Organization
of the Jewish Agency for Israel

In a policy address, an-
ticipating revolutionary
changes in the Jewish
Agency for Israel to be acted
upon at the Agency sessions
in Jeruslaem next week,
Detroiter Max M. Fisher,
who plans to retire from the
world chairmanship at
these sessions, proposed
changing ideologies into
In an address to the
Zionist General Council in
Jerusalem, on Tuesday,
Fisher presented a series of
proposals to make room for
a new generation of leaders
and "to make the Agency
more efficient, not in any
way to encroach upon the
autonomy of the World
Zionist Organization or any
other group represented in
the Agency."
Strongly endorsing the
Jerusalem Program, Fisher
made a series of proposals,
"Three years ago, I
talked about the need for
change in the WZO and
Jewish Agency. I spoke
to you as a Zionist and
expressed my feeling that
the time had come for a
reassessment of the rela-
tionship between the
partners in the Jewish
"Despite the progress
made since reconstitution,
we had not been responsive
to change in many areas in
the pursuit of our common
goals . . .

"The Agency is devoted
primarily to Israel, though
its structure reflects com-
munity organization pat:
terns of the Diaspora. The
WZO, in its operations, is
largely devoted to the Dias-
pora, yet only loosely iden-
tified with Diaspora leader-,
ship and institutions —
especially in North
"One group was not utiliz-
ing the resources already
possessed by the other; lead-
ing to duplicated efforts,
wasted opportunities and
lack of coordination in deal-
ing with common problems.
This was, clearly, a most
unsatisfactory situation —
a luxury the Jewish people
could not afford; particu-
laTly at a time when
Zionism was under assault
and assimilation was tak-
ing its toll throughout the
Free World.
"In the face of these
discouraging develop-
ments, I raised the issue
three years ago, before
this forum, as to whether
the existing structure of
the WZO is appropriate in
carrying out Zionist pro-
grams in the Diaspora.

"The question was also
asked whether the Zionist
political party system
should remain the sole basis
for the selection of depart-
ment-heads and top person-
nel to deal with the vital
tasks of: Jewish education,
the building of young lead-
ership to carry on our work,
engaging the minds of a
half-a-million Jewish stu-
dents and faculty on the
campus, involving the or-
ganized community in the
encouragement and support
of aliya from the Free
"The situation was
further complicated by the
image and posture of the
Zionist movement within
Israel. The connection be-
tween the WZO and inter-
nal Israeli politics, more
than 30 years after inde-
pendence, was rather
perplexing. I doubted that
the average Israeli citizen
was aware of this inter-
relationship between Is-
raeli national elections and
party representation at a
World Zionist Congress . . .
"I am seriously trou-
bled by the fact that such
a large percentage of Is-
raeli society remains un-

human — only more so. But,
my dear friends, there is a
question of negative percep-
tion which cannot be ig-
nored, especially by the
WZO and its lofty aims and
"I know that many vital
issues were raised at the re-
cent Congress concerning
Aliya, Jewish education, Is-
rael's social gap, and Soviet
Jewry. But the impression
created was that of a World
Zionist Congress devoted
not to the advancement of
Zionism, but to the paroc-
hial interests of particular
parties and personal ag-
"Is it not time for a
change? Can we permit the
status quo to continue.
"I said to you then that
only the WZO can answer
this question. Only the
WZO has the right to an-
swer this question. But I
do feel that as one of you,
I too have the right to
speak about the need for
necessary change. We
have been working to-
gether for more than a
decade and in the spirit of
true partnership I feel ob-
liged to raise the issue
again at this important '

"The Caesarea com-
missions on Jewish edu-
cation and aliya call for
changes in the functional
relationships - and for
much closer cooperation
and coordination be-
tween the WZO, the
Jewish Agency and the
communities in the Dias-
pora. Such action, I be-
lieye, marks a turning
point in Diaspora-Israel
"All this has been made
possible because of the
existence of the reconsti-
tuted agency.
"Yes, Zionism belongs to
the entire Jewish people.
"The challenge we now
face is to translate ideology
into reality. In a word —
implementation. It is to be
the implementation of the
Jerusalem Program that we
must dedicate our energies
in the years to come.
"To attain this objective,
the Caesarea Governance
Commission has proposed a
slightly enlarged executive,
which should meet more
frequently than it has in the
past, with the active par-
ticipation of Diaspora
members, or at least a ,
representative group, at
each executive meeting.
"It was also recom-
mended that the Board of
Governors meet more
frequently; that the
chairmen of departinen-



familiar with the WZO
and the Jewish Agency:
On the other hand, I am
encouraged by the gen-
eral agreement among
Israelis that the Zionist
movement and the
Agency should be
strengthened; the aver-
age Israeli has a good in-
stinct about Jewish
peoplehood. Zionism, for
most Israelis, remains the
strongest ideology of
Jewish unity.
"Can you understand
now, my dear friends, why
so many of us were deeply
disturbed by the sharp reac-
tion of the media to the last
Zionist Congress?
"No one denies that every
organization has its share of
competition, rivalry and
good old fashioned politics.
It is all part of human na-
ture and Zionists are

tal committees work
much closer than in the
past with the heads of
Agency departments.
"A system of rotation for
membership in the Board of
Governors has been pro-
posed in order to assure
periodic change of leader-
ship and make the Agency
more representative of our
constituency in the Dias-
"The WZO would also
benefit from such a rotation
system which would attract
new people and make room
for the next generation of
leaders. In the spirit of true
democracy, the principle of
rotation should be applied
by all the partners in the
Agency on an equal ba-
sis . ."
His address to the WZO
leaders was an appeal for
unified action, in support of
revolutionary changes to
strengthen the Diaspora-
Israel relationships. He de-
"We went to Caesarea
two years ago as two
separate groups, eager to
learn more about each
other as Jews, as
Zionists, as community
leaders. We came back to
Jerusalem as one, with a
much deeper apprecia-
fion of each other. Let us
continue that faith and
trust in each other.
"But, I must tell you in all
candor, the Jewish people
want a different Agency
than we have today. Other-
wise, we will lose the sup-
port of many of our good
people. And you, the leaders
of the WZO, cannot permit
this to happen; not at a time
when Israel needs the un-
qualified support of the
"We must face up to the
fact that the centrality of Is-
rael can no longer be taken
for granted.
"As members of this
Zionist council you have a
special responsibility to do
something about the pre-
sent situation. You consti-
tute 50 percent of the
Agency and its key opera-
tional partner. We need
each other to achieve
greater Jewish unity and to
broaden the base of Zionism
in the Diaspora.
"The Agency and WZO
are opposite sides of the
same coin. We can build a
better Agency if you are
prepared to make effec-
tive changes in the WZO.
"You know what the WZO
means to me. You have
heard me say more than
once that it is the WZO
which has altered the
course of modern Jewish
"As leaders of the WZO
you have always stood in
the vanguard of our people.
The Jewish world can learn
much from you. Be true to
yourselves and to your
glorious history.
"Fellow Zionists: The
time for change is — now!"

Boris Smolar's


`Between You
• • and Me'

Emeritus, JTA

(Copyright 1983, JTA, Inc.)

JEWISH AGENCY ASSEMBLY: Leaders of the or-
ganized Jewish communities in this country and Canada —
more than 100 of them — who are not affiliated with any
branch of the Zionist movement but who have been chosen
as members of the Jewish Agency Assembly following the
reorganization and expansion of the Agency are now going
to the Assembly with important new views and proposals
concerning the management and the governance of the
Agency. The Assembly opens in Jerusalem on Sunday.
The Assembly is the constituent body of the recon-
structed Jewish Agency. It is composed of 340 delegates on
a 50-50 partnership basis between the World Zionist
Organization and the central fund-raising bodies of Jewish
communities throughout the free world. The 170 Zionist
delegates are nominated by the World Zionist Congress and
include leaders of the Zionist groups in the United States.
The 170 non-Zionist delegates are chosen on recom-
mendations from their communities. They include 102 top -
leaders from the Jewish federations in the United States -
and Canada, and 68 leaders from Jewish communities in
other countries.
The chairman of the board is, by agreement, a non-
Zionist lay leader. Detroiter Max M. Fisher, the noted
American Jewish leader, has held this post since the
agency was reconstructed 12 years ago.

NEW DIRECTIONS: This assembly is expected to
bring about new directions for the Jewish Agency. It will
elect members of the board of governors for a four-year
term. It will react to recommendations made by commis-
sions appointed by the Jewish Agency leadership to review
the operations and structure of the Jewish Agency. The
adoption of these recommendations could determine the
course of the Jewish Agency for decades to come.
The community leaders in the Jewish Agency, led by
Max Fisher, strongly oppose the fact that the top profes-
sional administrative posts are held on the basis of party
considerations. They insist on a change. They want the
administrators to be selected on the basis of "competence"
and not on party patronage. The Zionist partners in the
agency are, however, stubborn on this issue. Heated de-
bates are expected. North American Jewry also wants a
greater voice and an official role for the Council of Jewish

THE ISSUES: What are the other requests of the
members of the Jewish Agency who represent the or-
ganized communities in the Diaspora? The various recom-
mendations include:

• The Jewish Agency is to engage in an ongoing and
constant re-examination of its programs, services, func-
tions and role in Israel.
• Aliya is a primary function of the Jewish Agency, but
resettlement, as a co-function of aliya, requires ongoing
definitions as to how much resettlement is the responsibil-
ity of the Jewish Agency and for what duration the agency
is responsible for the resettlement of immigrants in Israel.
• The role and function of Youth Aliya required re-
study and re-evaluation. The purpose of Youth Aliya has
undergone significant changes since its creation 50 years
ago, when it started with unattached children.
• Flexibility is one key term in how the agency should
operate. It should have the ability to accommodate new
programS and new services and to phase out programs and
services which no longer serve a needed purpose or which
are deemed as obsolete.
• Aliya from the West should be fostered through op-
erational links with Jewish community organizations of
Western communities. In order to further the interests,
programs and motivation for aliya, the agency must better
facilitate the absorption of new immigrants, particularly
immigrants from the West.
• The concept of "centrality of Israel" must be con-
stantly re-defined and refocused as a primary force for
coalescing all the Jewish people. Israel-Diaspora relations
require ongoing discussion and interpretation. There is
now a much more sophisticated Diaspora leadership group
which seeks new understandings as to the distinct roles in
the mutually supportive relationship between Israel and
the Diaspora. Such new relevant understandings - must be
created through an environment which represents unity
and can function in unity, even though there are internal
diversities and differences of opinion, style and ideology.
• Israel should be conceived as a primary Jewish edu-
cational resource for the Diaspora communities, but Israeli
programs and services should seek input from the Dias-
pora. A mechanism should be established to help facilitate _
effective communication between Israeli programs and re-
sources and appropriate Diaspora educational bodies and
organizations on local and national levels.

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