Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

The University of Michigan Library provides access to these materials for educational and research purposes. These materials may be under copyright. If you decide to use any of these materials, you are responsible for making your own legal assessment and securing any necessary permission. If you have questions about the collection, please contact the Bentley Historical Library at bentley.ref@umich.edu

June 27, 1986 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-06-27

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


wo events in recent years
that have reinforced the
critical stance of the Dias-
pora leaders vis a vis Israel
in general, and the Agen-
cy in particular, were the
war in Lebanon and the unfortunate
demise of Operation Moses, the rescue
operation for Ethiopian Jewry. Diaspora
Jewry became directly involved in both
through special fund-raising campaigns
that were launched by the UJA at the
prompting of the Israeli government.
Although the Lebanon war is usually
regarded as a debacle for the political
figures who led Israel at that time, it also
created another major casualty — the cred-
ibility of the Agency and the UJA. Soon
after the N4ar began in the summer of 1982,
UJA leaders appealed to American Jewry
to make extra donations to the Agency so
that it could supposedly take up the slack
in social programs that the government
would have to cut due to the war effort.
But the federation leadership involved in
the Agency had by that time learned
enough about the services that it provides
to know that things just don't work that
way. The Agency provides services in
specific fields such as rural settlement,
youth care and training, urban redevelop-
ment and immigrant absorption, on an an-
nual budget of about $430 million. None
of these services, even if they would be in-
creased dramatically, say with an infusion
of $20 million each, would be able to corn-
pensate for government cuts in education,
health services, housing, etc. And in any
case, the regular Agency departments can-
not be expanded and contracted in accord-
ion-like fashion, even if the extra services
were needed on an emergency basis, which
they were not.
Seeing that the old-style "pep talks"
about the Agency filling in for cuts in
government services didn't wash any more,
the UJA tried another tack: more money
is needed to make up for cuts in govern-
ment support for higher education, which
must be cut because of the war. This ap-
peal was more persuasive, since the Agen-
cy does allocate large sums each year to
support Israel's universities, amounts that
have ranged in recent years between $44
and $86 million. Increasing Agency sup-
port for the universities could indeed make
up for what the government would have to
cut, it was reasoned. So for 1982/83, the
Agency's budget line for higher education
shot up to $111 million, the highest level
since 1971 when the Agency was re-organ-
But not even this helped the universities
in a practical sense, as many American
Jews learned to their consternation during
the next few years, when the universities'
various "friends" organizations abroad
launched desperate appeals for extra funds
to keep their institutions from drowning in
red ink.

What happened was that the govern-
ment had indirectly pocketed the money
raised ostensibly for higher education in
the special UJA campaign of 1982/84, in
an elaborate shell game that left the
universities in a deep financial and
academic crisis (see box).
In any case, the campaign raised only
$60 million, which was far short of its
goals, and in the process derailed the fund-
raising efforts for Project Renewal in many
communities. It turned out to be harder
than expected to raise money for the in-
direct support of a war that aroused bit-
ter opposition in Israel and abroad.
The next special campaign, for Opera-
tion Moses, was launched in late 1984 as
thousands of Ethiopian Jews were being
airlifted to Israel. Although some people
questioned the wisdom of conducting this
semi-public fund-raising effort while the
clandestine rescue operation was going on,
the Agency and the UJA went ahead, re-
portedly at the government's urging. The
interest surrounding the campaign even-
tually led some central Jewish Agency
figures to make statements to the press
about the rescue, which in turn triggered
an avalanche of publicity that, eventually
closed down the operation.

he disillusionment with
Israel and the Agency
caused by these events has
acted as a catalyst to
speed up demands for
change. Some of these de-
mands had emerged as part of the
Caesarea Process begun in 1981 to redefine
the relations between the Diaspora leaders
and the leaders of the WZO, who jointly
control the Agency; and to improve the
Agency's financial condition and make it
more efficient.
For the most part, however, these efforts,
mainly by American Jewish federation
leaders, have not made headlines. Their at-
tempts to introduce major changes in the
structure and operation of the Agency
have been played out for the most part in
committee meetings and board rooms away
from the public eye. To understand who is
behind these moves and what channels of
influence they are seeking to use, however,
will require a more careful look at the or-
ganizations related to American Jewry's
involvement with the Jewish Agency, start-
ing with the UJA and moving on to the
CJF (Council of Jewish Federations) and
UIA (United Israel Appeal). Even though
it may appear that some of the leaders in-
volved are simply the same people wearing
different organizational hats, the special
perspectives, interests and powers of each
body can make a crucial difference in the
emerging struggle over who controls the
The UJA has attracted most of the at-
tention over the years as the body respon-
sible for raising the funds that support

American Jewry's overseas commitments,
which are mainly Israel (through the Agen-
cy) and other Jewish communities served
by the Joint Distribution Committee. The
UJA's role is not to examine what needs
are actually being served by the funds col-
lected, or to suggest alternative uses for
them, but rather to make sure that the
funds will be there when the Agency or the
JDC needs them. So these fund-raisers
cannot afford to ask too many questions
about how the money is spent, since this
might adversely affect their ability to whip
up grass-roots enthusiasm for "the cam-
The community federation leaders who
are asked to raise the cash from their own
members look at things a bit differently.
They see themselves as the "doers," those
who have accumulated experience and
know-how in the provision of social and
educational services to their own com-
munities. This self-image applies to the
federation professionals as well as to the
lay leaders who are deeply involved in the
community budgeting process and have a
good grasp of what is done with their
money, on the local level at least. lb some
of the community leaders, the UJA people
appear at times as "used-car salesmen"
who slap new coats of paint on worn-out
Agency programs, and who don't like it
when a prospective "buyer" wants to ask
an expert to look under the hood. And in
any case, the UJA people are seen as
"talkers," not "doers."
Project Renewal — Israel's comprehen-
sive rehabilitation program for depressed
areas — gave the community leaders their
first opportunity to apply some of their
organizational experience and prOfessional
know-how on the Israeli scene. This was ac-
complished through "twinning" arrange-
ments that linked Diaspora community
support directly to depressed neighbor-
hoods in Ithmel. The Project also gave them
their first real look "under the hood" at
how the Agency operates, which didn't
always square with the rosy picture
painted in fund-raising films or missions
to Israel.
The Council of Jewish Federations (CJF)
is the national umbrella organization for
local federations, and also projects the
same concern and expertise with the "real
world" of programming, budgeting, service
delivery, leadership training and expert
evaluation. The CJF has been expanding
its leadership ambitions on the national
scene, parallel to the more central role
played by federations on the local level.
One expression of this is that some leaders
and professionals who wear CJF hats have
begun to see the role of the UJA as a
distinct fund-raising body as increasingly
superfluous. Although CJF leaders have
filled key roles in the governing bodies of
the Agency, the CJF as such did not at-
tempt to carve out a niche for itself in
Agency affairs until recently.



Back to Top

© 2020 Regents of the University of Michigan