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May 30, 1986 - Image 19

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

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weekend, and he "needs something else to
But logic here seems irrelevant. The -
basic consideration is that the various
movements° in the WZO have a quota of
shlichut postions that they have the
"right" to fill, and what the shlichim do
once they reach a community becomes
secondary. The AZYF, which is nominal-
ly responsible for the youth movement
shlichim, actually has little or no say in
who is sent where, or what they do once
they get there. Attempts to coordinate the
work of youth shlichim located in the same
area have usually proved fruitless, since
each one regards himself as primarily
responsible to his political movement back
in Israel or to that movement's national
office in New York.

he Zionist youth move-
ment shlichim share a
common problem with the
aliya shlichim in that they
operate for the most part
in a vacuum. Their respec-
tive departments decide
where they will be placed,
low many will be stationed, how much
money they will spend and what they will
spend it on. The communities they are
placed in have little say in these matters
or in selecting the candidates. It should
thus come as no surprise that most of
these communities take little interest in
what the aliya and youth movement shli-
chim do there, except when they gain a
reputation for offending Diaspora sensi-
This can happen if the shlichim repre-
sent the "gloom and doom" school of
clas-sical Zionism, which maintains that
the Diaspora is destined to disappear, and
that Jews should jump into the nearest
Zionist lifeboat before their ship sinks. Not


all shlichim accept these classical Zionist
dogmas, and some who do have enough
sense to know that belaboring American
Jewish audiences with them- will not help
make the idea of aliya more appealing. But
others insist on rubbing this message in,
which eventually puts them in an adver-
sarial relation with their "host" corn-
The more sophisticated people in the
Aliya Department in Jerusalem know that
few American Jews will ever be convinced
that aliya is a legitimate option for Jewish
fulfillment by being repeatedly battered
with Zionist cliches. They know that there
are more positive ways to present this
idea, as do some of the shlichim. At times,
however, a shaliach can succeed in build-
ing up greater understanding and support

for the idea of aliya in his community,
through months and perhaps years of pa-
tient persuasion, only to see this goodwill
go down the drain when a visiting WZO
dignitary or department official launches
into a public tirade of "gloom and doom"
about the future of American Jewry.
Other problems of the aliya shalichut are
organizational, as the Landau Commission
pointed out. It noted the frequent com-
plaints by those who have made aliya that
some of the information given them in
their country of origin by the aliya
shaliach was inaccurate. The commission
blamed the system, noting that the fre-
quent changes in the hundreds of customs
and other regulations affecting immi-
grants make it very difficult for a shaliach
to keep up with them.
A good shaliach must be able not only
to process applications and provide infor-
mation, but he must also be a dynamic and
persuasive speaker.
These factors have combined to make
the conventional role of the aliya shaliach

in America, which is difficult enough to
start with, highly problematic. This lack
of effectiveness is reflected in the low
figures for North American aliya, which
have averaged around 3,000 a year in re-
cent years. This evaluation, which is wide-
ly held in Jerusalem as well as at 515 Park
Avenue, takes into account that the im-
pact of shlichim is but one of several fac- _
tors in shaping the rate of aliya from a
given country.
The community shlichut differs from the
prevailing patterns of youth movement
and aliya shlichut in that it is based on the
principle of partnership with the host com-
munity. The job definition, funding, and
selection of each shaliach are shared by the
community and the Youth and Hehalutz
Department; and the shaliach's position is
integrated with a leading community in-
stitution such as a federation or commun-
ity center. When this system is operating
at its best, the shaliach has effective chan-
nels of access to the community and com-
munity backing for his activities — which
aliya and youth movement shlichim usual-
ly lack. The main problem facing com-
munity shlichut in recent years is that the
department cannot find enough qualified
candidates to fill the increasing demand
for these positions by Diaspora com-
In matters of education, there is a con-
flict that has emerged between the two
WZO education departments and a key
group of Jewish educators, the association
of directors of bureaus of Jewish education
in North America, which speaks for BJE
directors in 40 communities. The main pro-
tagonists in this struggle have been the
head of the "general" Department for
Education and Culture in the Diaspora,
Dr. Eli Tavin, and Dr. Sam Schafler, the
head of the Bureau Directors Fellowship,
as their association is formally known.
The directors of some of the larger
bureaus have for quite a while been dis-
satisfied with what they regard as the ar-
rogance and ineffectiveness of the educa-
tion departments. Last year, however,
Schafler, who heads the Chicago BJE,
publicly blasted the attitudes, materials
and staffing policies of Tavin's depart-
ment. He said that the materials produced
by the department on Israel and Zionism
were largely irrelevant; that most of the
shlichim sent by the department were un-
qualified political appointees; that the
department tries to worm its way into
communities using a "carrot and stick"
approach that rewards those who cooper-
ate and punishes those who don't; that its
New York staff has wasted thousands of
dollars flying around the country peddling
services that local BJEs prefer to get
elsewhere; and that Tavin refuses to con-
duct authentic consultations with his
American constituency about how the

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Part Two

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