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July 28, 1995 - Image 82

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-07-28

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UJA, Jewish Agency
Regarded As Vital


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New York (JTA) — A survey of
the Israeli public's attitudes to-
ward the United Jewish Appeal
and the issues it deals with has
brought reassuring news for offi-
cials at the premier Jewish phil-
The survey reaffirmed "that we
are relevant," said Richard Pearl-
stone, national chairman of UJA,
speaking on a telephone confer-
ence call from Israel.
The results of the survey were
encouraging for both UJA and
the Jewish Agency for Israel, the
quasi-governmental body that is
the primary recipient of money
raised by UJA for Israel. Both or-
ganizations have taken a num-
ber of blows to their philanthropic
pre-eminence in recent years.
American Jewish community
federations, faced with flat cam-
paigns and increased concern for
local causes, have scaled back the
amount of money they pass on to
And last year, Israeli Deputy
Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin
sent shockwaves through the
philanthropic system when he
bluntly told American Jews that
it was time for UJA and the Jew-
ish Agency to get out of the social
welfare business in Israel.
As American leaders of UJA
felt they were making strides in
reforming the Jewish Agency in
recent years, they began to wor-
ry that the body's image in Israel
was due for an overhaul.
The Jewish Agency Assembly,
the organization's governing body
that met in Jerusalem, has in the
past directed the Jewish Agency
to allocate money toward im-
proving its image in Israel.
The recent survey by Gallup
Israel, conducted in May and
June, was an effort to gauge re-
cent attitudes.
"We have two markets," said
Brian Lurie, UJA's executive vice
president, citing both the Amer-
ican Jewish community, where
the money is raised, and Israel,
where UJA sponsors programs.
The survey found that 58 per-
cent of the Israeli public consid-
ers the Jewish Agency to be
fulfilling a very vital or vital role;
13 percent an average role; and
12 percent not a vital role. The
remainder said they did not
A similar percentage of those
surveyed affirmed that UJA
plays a vital role. Not surpris-
ingly, Israelis were less familiar
with UJA, which raises money in
the Diaspora, than the Jewish
Agency, which delivers the ser-
vices in Israel.
In the telephone interview,
UJA leaders expressed pleasure
that 23 percent of respondents

correctly identified UJA's role as
"funds collection." Another 25 per-
cent had heard of UJA, but could
not identify its function.
The survey also adds fuel to
the debate raging over the future
of the World Zionist Organiza-
tion. Jewish leaders gathered in
Jerusalem last week for WZO's
Zionist General Council and for
the Jewish Agency Assembly this
week spent much of their time fo-
cused on the likely merger of the
two organizations by the year
Two-thirds of the Israelis sur-
veyed were unable to define the
role of WZO, whose chief mission
is to promote aliyah and Zionist
activities, primarily in Western
WZO was also listed as least
vital compared to UJA and the
Jewish Agency: Fully 35 percent
said it was fulfilling a vital role,
against 16 percent saying its role
was not vital.
According to Mr. Lurie, the poll
refutes Beilin's notion that Is-
raelis do not want American
However, the poll did not ask
about the importance of Diaspo-
ra assistance to Youth Aliyah pro-

The WA funds
immigration for
Jews in danger.

grams or Project Renewal
neighborhoods — the sort of so-
cial welfare projects Beilin thinks
should be handled by the Israeli
Instead, the poll examined Is-
raelis' attitudes toward the
emerging, post-Beilin agenda of
the Jewish Agency, an agenda in
which the emphasis is on contin-
uing the aliyah from the former
Soviet Union and building a "liv-
ing bridge" between Israel and
the Diaspora.
On those fronts, UJA and the
Jewish Agency seem to have won
strong endorsement for their new
Asked which Jewish issue
should be first priority on Israel's
agenda, 36 percent of the Israelis
surveyed chose immigration.
The Jewish Agency funds im-
migration for Jews in danger.
This has been the agency's cen-
tral priority since the beginning
of mass aliyah from the former
Soviet Union.
Preventing assimilation was
chosen as the top priority Jewish
issue for Israel by 29 percent of
those surveyed, while 22 percent
chose tightening the bond be-

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