Dear Colleagues - let me reiterate how honored I am to be chairing UIA, following a legacy started by my father, Max Fisher, and held by a succession of outstanding leaders, including my immediate predecessor, Bennett Aaron.
These are extraordinary times that have placed an enormous responsibility on each of us that few could have predicted just a handful of years ago. But as seasoned leaders, it is also a time when we are empowered to make an extraordinary difference.
I believe that UIA is poised to reemerge as a powerful and important catalyst in helping to secure the Jewish future. Founded 75 years ago, as the Palestine Appeal (what a difference a few generations make in nomenclature), UIA has evolved throughout these years, changing as the Jewish world and its organizational needs have changed.
We stand today at a pivotal moment in UIA's history in two regards: first, in terms of the unique and multi-layered challenges facing the Jewish people; and secondly, in terms of the potential contribution UIA can make in meeting these. While we will remain vigilant in our core mandate to responsibly distribute and provide oversight of the funds transferred to support the work of the Jewish Agency for Israel, I am calling upon each of us to work together to transform UIA into a more forceful advocate for Israel, for overseas needs, and for the crucial work of the Jewish Agency.
This new UIA Action Update, which will be issued every 6 weeks, is designed to empower you with timely, relevant background information filtered through a Jewish Agency 'lens' to both inform good decision making and to strengthen advocacy effectiveness.
But it is not planned as a one-way process; rather as a collaborative effort where each of us will be called upon to share experiences, resources and together, to build the momentum needed to meet this moment of challenge for our people.
Looking forward to working with you - B'Shalom, back to top
TAKING ISSUE A Look at Key UIA Issue Areas
What are the UIA Issue Areas? This section will feature background, updates or relevant factoids on one or more key UIA areas. But let's start with the basics: The main issue areas that fall within the domain of the UIA are: Overseas Allocations Properties in Israel Amigour Low-Income Housing Bank Loans US Government Grant Jewish Agency, Israel and Overseas Advocacy
Background: US Government Grant For more than two decades, UIA has been a recipient of a US government grant to aid in the resettlement of refugees in Israel. Initiated by Congress during the early 1970's in response to the first large influx of Soviet Jews to Israel, during the lifetime of the grant, UIA has been awarded US government funds totaling more than $1.2 billion. Since the massive wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union began in 1989, the US government grant has represented approximately 19 percent of the total resources available to the Jewish Agency by the American Jewish community. The State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration supervises the grant programs, and key Members of the US Senate and House of Representatives have provided the leadership to assure continued support. Over the years, Members of Congress have recognized the continuing responsibility to help bring Jews to Israel from countries of distress based on the principle that free emigration is a hallmark of a democratic society and, therefore, a priority of the US Congress. They look upon this grant as a concrete expression of these values. H. Irwin Levy serves as Chairman of the UIA US Government Relations Committee. Jeff Kaye is the UIA Director of the US Grant.
Board of Directors Meeting at GA Philadelphia. November 20, 2002
Outgoing Chair Bennett Aaron congratulates incoming Chair Jane F. Sherman.
New UIA leadership was installed at a well attended UIA Board of Directors meeting held during the General Assembly: New board members: Fred Bondy, Dr. Beryl Geber, Michael Lebovitz, Kathy Manning, Lewis Norry, and James Schiller.
New officers elected: Jane Sherman, Chairperson; Caryn Rosen Adelman, Neil Moss, Alan Shulman, Vice-Chairpersons; H. Irwin Levy, Treasurer; and Bobi Klotz, Secretary.
New Executive Vice-Chairperson: Yitzchak Shavit
Our thanks to outgoing board members: Charles Bronfman, Moshe Dworkin, Philip Meltzer, Melvin Salberg, Richard Spiegel, and Joel D. Tauber.
Summary of US Government Grant Report given at the GA by Washington consultant Richard Straus
At the Board of Directors meeting, Richard Straus, UIA consultant in Washington, reported that the US Government Grant for the current fiscal year, running from October 1, 2002 through September 30, 2003, is $60 million.
A continuing resolution was recently passed, that will allow the Jewish Agency to receive, via UIA, approximately one quarter of the $60 million. These funds will, hopefully, be available by the end of December.
By mid-January a bill should be put forward to provide for the remainder of the grant funding.
Regarding the 2004 fiscal year, due to the reduction in immigration numbers, it is expected that the Administration will request $50 million, $10 million less than the amount of the 2003 grant. Congress will consider the request in late spring 2003.
JEWISH AGENCY IN FOCUS Highlighting Jewish Agency Initiatives& Projects
Jewish Agency Takes Lead Role in New Israel Education Month Initiative
United Jewish Communities (UJC), the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA), The Jewish Agency, and a wide range of leading Jewish religious, communal and educational organizations will launch the first-ever Israel Education Month, slated for January 19 through February 16, 2003.
"Israel Education Month comes at a time when the educational community is challenged with the need to infuse interest and excitement around Israel in educational settings," said Dr. Elan Ezrachi, Director of Educational Programs and Experiences for The Jewish Agency's Department for Jewish Zionist Education. "The image of Israel in the media, and the growing numbers of people who refrain from visiting Israel, has created a dangerous threat to the relationship between North American Jews and Israel. Israel Education Month is intended to re-ignite the spark and yearning for meaningful engagements with the people, land and state of Israel, on all aspects of education — emotion, knowledge and practice.
The initiative will enable educators, community leaders and individuals across the continent to enhance and solidify the connection and bond between North American Jews and the Jewish homeland with a full and innovative spectrum of multidimensional programming and resource materials aimed at children, youth, students, adults, parents, teachers and others. According to Marion Blumenthal, chair of the UJC Renaissance and Renewal Pillar's Task Force on Educational Engagement with Israel, Israel Education Month "will teach Israel in a way that is fully integrated and core to Jewish education throughout the lifecycle."
Among the programs and activities to be offered: a virtual tour of Israel, along with tour guide; an on-line, distance learning course to foster understanding of the current conflict and to teach Israel advocacy skills; a multimedia presentation of Israel viewable by computer; a catalogue of educational games about Israel; and, an educators' forum for the sharing of ideas regarding Israel Education Month programming.
Educators from Israel will also be available to visit with communal professionals and other audiences to enhance and improve Israel Education Month programming in the Diaspora.
Civil Guard 400 state-of-the-art walkie-talkies were purchased and are being distributed to the Civil Guard, the first step in a program to enhance the capabilities of this volunteer safety organization.
School Safety Following a local government strike, which hampered full implementation of this project, approximately 70% of the school guards are now in place.
Fund for The Victims of Terror Over 400 families of terror victims have so far received financial assistance from the fund. Additionally, a new savings program for children orphaned or who have lost one parent creates a $5,000 savings account in the name of each child for use as they reach the age of twenty-one.
Jewish Agency Advocacy
Frontline advocacy begins at home. Create opportunities to speak about the work of the Jewish Agency to your local federation.
Being asked to speak at a function? Regardless of the topic or the hat that you are wearing, there is always a way to incorporate a pitch for the vital work being done on behalf of Jews worldwide by the Jewish Agency.
Securing Israel's communities In a ceremony this week that will be attended by PM Sharon and 400 participants of a UJC Stand with Israel mission, 39 patrol vehicles will be presented to the Civil Guard. As terror has moved into the streets and homes within Israel's civilian communities, the Civil Guard has become a critical first-line of defense in this unprecedented war targeting a civilian population. Funds for the gifts were collected as part of the Israel Emergency Campaign, run by the Jewish Agency and UJC.
Emergency conference on Jewish demography held last week in Jerusalem by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, established by the Jewish Agency. New research reveals that each year the Jewish people are losing some 50,000 people, mostly through assimilation, intermarriage, and loss of Jewish identity. JAFI Chairman Sallai Meridor, said that the findings arouse deep concern over the fate of the Jewish people, noting if immediate measures are not taken to stem this phenomenon the Jewish-democratic identity of the Israel is at risk. He added that the solution lies in Jewish education and the encouragement of aliyah. "Aliyah is like water in the tap," he said. "We must ensure that it is always there."
Dr. Pablo Russo, an OB/GYN, arrived in Israel in January 2002 from Buenos Aries to participate in the Jewish Agency's Aliyah 2000 Professional Program for Medical Doctors in cooperation with Poriyah Hospital in the Galilee.
"Many people in Argentina told me that I was jumping straight from the frying pan into the fire," stated Russo. "I assured them that this wasn't the case."
Pablo, 39, married and the father of two sons, deliberated long and hard before making the decision to uproot his family and come to Israel. But the Russo family is enjoying being in Israel and already feels at home. His first priority has been to learn Hebrew. Russo confesses to being amazed at how quickly his young sons have picked it up.
"When you see your own children begin to blossom, then you know that you are heading in the right direction," Pablo summarizes. "I would much rather live in a country that has succeeded in turning a desert into a paradise than a paradise into a desert!"
Status Report: Argentina Aliyah 2002
As Argentina's financial crisis has worsened, the number of Jewish Buenos Aires residents living below the poverty line is now 30,000.
Through the end of November 2002 over 5,000 Jews have made Aliyah to Israel — which reflects a 250% increase over 2001.
The Jewish Agency's objective in Argentina is to promote aliyah in general and opportunities for specific groups, including families in financial crisis, students and youth, rural populations, professionals, members of the Conservative community and former immigrants to Israel who have since returned to Argentina. Once in Israel, the Jewish Agency is committed to helping immigrants meet the challenges of absorption.
How important is Aliyah? One out of every four soldiers drafted in the most recent class of IDF combat recruits is a new immigrant. For the first time, the number of immigrants in combat roles is practically equal to that of the general soldier population.
Leadership On the Road
UIA is getting underway with the development of a series of key leadership missions. Please be on the lookout for more information.