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May 30, 1986 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-05-30

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Friday, May 30, 1986


Can the WZO
Deliver The Message
And The Goods?

The World Zionist Organization is
charged with providing high quality
personnel and programs to bring the
message of Israel and Zionism to Jews
around the world. But critics say that
the WZO, plagued by internal politics,
stifles professionalism and offers little

Special to TheiJewish News


hen American Jewish lead-
ers negotiated the 1971
agreement that formally
separated the Jewish
Agency from the World
Zionist Organization
(WZO), they did so under
the watchful eye of the U.S. Internal
RevenUe Service. The IRS had taken a dim
view of the tax-exempt philanthropic
dollars raised by the United Jewish Ap-
peal being used to fund the educational
and political activities carried out all over
the world by the WZO. At that time, the
Diaspora leaders were content to focus
their time and energy on the Jewish Agen-
cy, leaving the WZO mainly in Israeli
Fifteen years later, however, an increas-
ing number of Diaspora leaders are taking
a more critical look at an arrangement
which left them with little influence over
the services provided by the WZO. They
are particularly concerned about the
WZO's ability to provide the high-quality
programs and personnel needed to bring
the message of Israel and Zionism to Jews
around the world. Many leaders have
reached the conclusion that the perfor-
mance of the WZO has been seriously
wanting. Indeed, more than a few would
consider that an understatement.
This view has led some Diaspora leaders
to look for ways to remedy the situation,
which in turn has sparked conflicts with
some of the forces in Israel that control the

Where Do All Our Dollars Go?

WZO. The dissatisfaction has
even spread recently to parts
of the WZO itself.
For example, many
American Jewish leaders
fail to understand why dozens
of shlichim (emissaries from Israel)
are sent by the WZO ostensibly to
work with Zionist youth groups
which have few members, while the
youth movements of the Conservative,
Orthodox and Reform movements -get
only a token number of shlichim; or why
many shlichim are sent to the U.S. without
an adequate command of English or under-
standing of the American Jewish commun-
ity. Likewise, Jewish educators are asking
pointed questions about the poor. quality
of services and personnel provided to
America by the two WZO education
The split in functions and formal sources
of funding between the Jewish Agency
and WZO has put Diaspora Jewry in a
paradoxical situation. The leaders of the
UJA and Keren Hayesod (the equivalent
of the UJA in other countries) have a 50
percent share in the governance of the
Jewish Agency and can influence what it
does for Israelis. But these same leaders
have little influence over the nature and
quality of the services the WZO provides
in their own communities abroad or for
Diaspora Jews in Israel. And whether they
know it or not — and most do not — the
Diaspora philanthropists are still paying





.-• ■ •• ■ -





for the WZO through a complex and sha-
dowy system of indirect funding (see box).
The Israeli parties and their Zionist af-
filiates that run the WZO thus have the
best of both worlds. They have a 50 per-
cent share in governing the Agency and
use some of its resources to their partisan
advantage; and they have full control of
the WZO — which is paid for by the
Diaspora philanthropists — without any
formal accountability to those who really
foot the bill.
Although the Agency and the WZO
started out as distinct bodies, each with a
defined task in the creation of a Jewish
homeland in Palestine, they merged for all
practical purposes after the establishment
of the state of Israel in 1948. This in turn
created a problem for the UJA, since some
of the money it was raising, ostensibly for
Israel's social and educational needs, was
going to fund the political activities of

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