Jewish Agency officials are playing down the decision taken by a large Christian evangelical funded-philanthropy based in Israel to assume an independent role in promoting Jewish immigration to the country.
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The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a non-government organization headed by Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein, intends to create a new department dedicated exclusively to assisting Jews in distress move to Israel, with special focus on the former Soviet Union, it was reported today. The new department will be headed by Eli Cohen, a former director of the Jewish Agency aliyah division.
“The Jewish Agency is the body tasked with bringing new immigrants to Israel,” the agency said in response. “As part of its activities, the Jewish Agency works with various government ministries and other organizations interesting in aiding its efforts to bring immigrants to the Jewish state.”
Jewish Agency sources noted that the IFCJ does not have the infrastructure on the ground to take charge of immigration operation on its own.
“It will have little effect on us,” they said.
The IFCJ has contributed an estimated $150 million to aliyah activities over the years, mostly through partner organizations like the Jewish Agency. Until recently, Eckstein served on the executive board of The Jewish Agency and also headed its aliyah committee.
The IFCJ put a major portion of the funding to bring the remaining Jews of Ethiopia to Israel in recent years.