The Jewish Agency will cease funding “long-term” absorption of olim in Israel by 2014 and focus on fostering Jewish identity and encouraging aliya instead, it was announced on Sunday.

The government decided to assume the agency’s longtime commitments to both the Student Authority, a group that provides newcomers to Israel with free university education, and ulpan, a network of language schools that teaches olim Hebrew – freeing up an estimated NIS 20 million.

“What’s important is that the the government recognizes that long-term investment is their burden,” said Jewish Agency spokesman Ofer Lefler. “We’re bringing more people to Israel and are continuing our commitments to other projects like aliya centers, but the important matter is that the government is taking responsibility for long-term absorption.”

The agency will continue to partially fund the Student Authority’s NIS 68.5m. budget next year to the tune of NIS 6.5m., but will be phased out by 2014. The entity will then be entirely funded by the government through the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Jewish Agency’s newly available resources will be reinvested to fulfill goals spelled out by the organization’s strategic plan from three years ago, which focuses on strengthening Jewish identity in the Diaspora. The group believes that investment in bolstering “Jewish peoplehood” through education will eventually help bring more olim to the country.

Some critics, however, have said this approach moves the organization away from its traditional role of facilitating Jewish immigration to Israel – into areas where it is not needed or has no experience.

Agency chairman Nathan Sharansky said: “We committed ourselves to the Jewish people and continue to follow the path set out by David Ben-Gurion and the fulfillment of the Jewish and Zionist vision by strengthening Israel.

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