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January 06, 1989 - Image 96

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-01-06

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

ANN ARBOR

Israeli Political Issues Spill Over
Into Washtenaw UJA Campaign

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72

FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 1989

he Ann Arbor chapter
of the New Jewish
Agenda has asked
Ann Arbor Jews stop con-
tributing to the United
Jewish Appeal.
"We felt it was now time to
come out and say what needs
to be said," says Benjamin
Ben-Baruch, NJA member. ,
"It's time to say stop giving to
UJA."
The Ann Arbor NJA is
recommending that contribu-
tions to Israel be made
through alternative organiza-
tions like the New Israel
Fund or the Giveat Haviva
Institute.
As far as local giving goes
it suggests that people can by-
pass the UJA entirely by giv-
ing directly to Ann Arbor
organizations like the Jewish
Community Center, Hillel,
and the Hebrew Day School.
Earl Jordan, executive
director of the Ann Arbor
UJA/JCAssociation, doesn't
believe that NJA's appeal will
have any effect on the Ann
Arbor campaign. "I think
that most Jewish people have
deep enough loyalties to the
UJA to realize that it's a very
worthwhile undertaking," he
explains. "I don't think
they're easily pursuasded
otherwise."
Newell Miller, campaign
chair for 1988 and 1989,
agrees. "By and large it will
have no effect at all." In 1987
the UJA of Washtenaw Coun-
ty raised $430,000. This year,
according to Miller, $360,000
has been raised with 100
outstanding pledges still to be
secured.
If contributions from
regular donors remain unaf-
fected by the NJA's recom-
mendation, others might not.
It's possible that the so-called
silent majority of potential
givers — Jews in the com-
munity who have yet to give
to the UJA and who will be
targeted to give in the future
— may heed the NJA's
message and use it as an ex-
cuse not to support the
UJA/JCA or other local
Jewish organizations. Last
year, at the beginning of the
annual UJA campaign, the
NJA distributed lists of local
and national organizations
leserving of tzedakah. Many,
like the Joint Distribution
Committee, are supported by
the UJA. But the UJA/JCA
itself was noticeably absent
from that list.

-,.011111111111111111.1

This year's action was con-
sidered provocative by some
Ann Arbor Jews. "It's
counter productive to
dissuade fellow Jews from
giving to an organization,"
says Miller. "I would urge
them to support the projects
they truly believe in but not
at the expense of the UJA,"
says Syma Kroll, a UJA board
member. "I think the New
Israel Fund is wonderful, but
there are things it simply
doesn't do, doesn't handle,
that the UJA does."
Others point out that the
NJA's recommendation effec-
tively disenfranchises in-
dividuals from having a voice
within the formal Jewish
commmunity. "Hone opts out
of the system you opt out of
the opportunity to make
changes internally," Kroll ex-
plains. In order to be a voting
member of the local
UJA/JCA, an individual must
pledge to the campaign. The
minimal donation is $1.
The NJA gives two major
reasons why it believes the
UJA shouldn't be supported.
"There's good evidence that
the (UJA) money indirectly
supports the occupation. And
there's good evidence that the
money is distributed unequal-
ly," says Elias Baumgarten,
co-chair of the Ann Arbor
NJA's Ethical Jewish Giving
Project.

"Monies contributed to the
UJA support the patronage
system which has allowed the
clericalist parties to gain elec-
toral strength and directly
support discrimination, es-
pecially in the social service
sector but also in the
agricultural sector," adds
Ben-Baruch.
In the past, the NJA has
argued that the approximate-
ly $300 million raised by the
UJA earmarked for Israel
each year, though nominally
under the control of the
United Israel Appeal, ends up
under the de facto control of
the major political parties.
And one of the consequences
of that, the NJA argues,
results in discriminatory and
unequal services between
Israeli Jews and Israeli
Arabs.
"I doubt very seriously that
anything that the UJA does
through its conduits serves to
oppress anybody," counters
Jordan. Further, Jordan ex-
plains, the NJA's complaints
are with political problems
that have political solutions.
"Denying the truly needy is
not one of the ways to find

solutions to these problems."
If the NJA has problems
with how some UJA funds are
used, they're not alone. "Fun-
ding through the UJA isn't
perfect, nothing's perfect,"
says Miller. "Any bureaucra-
tic organization is going to
have faults." Some people who
work closely with the UJA
have, over the years, express-
ed concerns, especially regar-
ding the distribution of funds
in Israel. "Questions about
the Jewish Agency have been
around for at least a decade,"
explains Kroll, who last
March spent 10 days in Israel
with a group of other
Amricans looking into,
among other things, the
weaknesses and problems of
the Agency.
Kroll responds that the
very authority behind the
UJA can make a definite dif-
ference in effectuating policy
decisions in Israel. "There's
no question that a great deal
of change has occurred as a
result of Diasporic pressure:'
. New JeWish Agenda and
the UJA/JCA may disagree
abut overseas support, but
they agree on a local issue:
"We've maintained for years
that the local community
must give greater support to
local projects and local needs,"
says Ben-Baruch. The
UJA/JCA concurs.
In the past year the
UJA/JCA has engaged in an
ongoing discussion about
changing the Ann Arbor
allocations process and
guidelines. "There's a grow-
ing awareness that local
needs are increasing' says
Jordan, "and that there is a
direct correlation of the
strength of local institutions
and Israel."
In the past the JCA/UJA
has allocated monies on an
85-15 percent formula, with
Israel receiving the 85 per-
cent and the rest remaining
in Washtenaw County. But
this is about to change. "In
the 1989 campaign it (the
85-15 formula) will not be
operative," says Jordan.
According to UJA/JCA by-
laws a majority of the monies
raised must go to Israel. "The
question is how do we change
the guidelines in a way to
give every donor a way to ex-
press his own concerns, his
own specific values and at the
same time provide for Jews
around the world including
Israel," says Jordan. The
JC.AJUJA is working to for-
malize a new allocation
formula.

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