Israeli Government Scales Down Plan to Woo European Jews

The campaign, had it been approved in its original form, would have effectively stripped the Jewish Agency of its remaining role in promoting immigration.

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Immigrants from France arriving in Ben-Gurion Airport in 2006Credit: Alon Ron

An ambitious government campaign to promote immigration from Europe, and specifically Ukraine, has been downsized significantly in response to pressure from foreign Jewish leaders.

The campaign, had it been approved in its original form, would have effectively stripped the Jewish Agency of its remaining role in promoting immigration. Foreign Jewish leaders warned the government that this could severely hamper their fundraising efforts on behalf of the Jewish Agency.

According to the original plan, the government would have spent 100 million shekels ($29 million) on outreach efforts and financial incentives to entice those European Jews currently considering relocation because of rising anti-Semitism and economic hardships to make Israel their destination. The Jewish Agency would have been involved only minimally in this effort. This money to finance the campaign was supposed to have been transferred to the government from the Jewish National Fund coffers.

Under the new version, which will be voted on by the cabinet on Sunday, only 60 million shekels will be allocated to this effort. The money will be spent on an outreach campaign and on financial incentives to be made available to any Jews from Europe who immigrate to Israel from July 1, 2014 through December 31, 2015.

According to the plan, a special type of corporation, known as a public-benefit nonprofit, will be set up for the duration of this period to manage this project. This nonprofit will be fully owned by the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization. (Under the original proposal, the Jewish National Fund and the United Israel Appeal were also supposed to have assumed a prominent role in its activities.)

The corporation’s outreach activities will include organizing information sessions and job fairs for potential immigrants and putting together brochures and other publicity material. Part of its budget will also be spent on financial incentives aimed at facilitating a smooth relocation for the immigrants after their arrival in Israel. This includes a special grant for immigrants coming from areas considered to be danger zones, like Ukraine.

Last year saw a dramatic increase in immigration to Israel from France – a trend that is expected to continue this year. In recent months, the raging conflict in Ukraine has also brought about a sharp uptick in immigration from that country."

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