Landver rejects call to take aliya control from JAFI

Ministry director-general: Jewish Agency should "return keys" of aliya, role of Nefesh B’Nefesh should be diminished.

Nefesh b'Nefesh July 2012 (photo credit: Courtesy of Nefesh b'Nefesh)
Nefesh b'Nefesh July 2012
(photo credit: Courtesy of Nefesh b'Nefesh)
Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver repudiated comments made by her ministry’s director-general on Wednesday after he publicly called for a significant diminution of the powers of the Jewish Agency.
The agency should no longer bear responsibility for Jewish immigration from the Diaspora, Immigrant Absorption Ministry director-general Dmitry Aparzev told the Hebrew language daily Ma’ariv in an article published on Wednesday.
Aparzev is now in his second term as director-general of the ministry.
“I give the [Jewish Agency] the mandate to take care of a national issue – aliya – and instead it decides to invest in a different area,” Aparzev said in the interview, referring to the agency’s shift away from its traditional focus on facilitating large-scale immigration in favor of programs to maintain Jewish identity among Jews living outside of Israel.
Aparzev called upon the Jewish Agency to “return the keys” of aliya to his ministry, alleging that the quasi-governmental organization has fallen down on the job of “encouraging aliya.”
In response to a query from the Post, Elad Son, the spokesman for Landver, said via email that the minister “strongly supports organizations who encourage aliya and is happy for each one that is founded. The minister prefers as [many] organizations as possible for the important mission of aliya, and for that reason the ministry will continue supporting them. Nefesh B’Nefesh is one of those organizations and Minister Landver thinks highly of its work.”
Landver’s spokesman also said that she “believes that JAFI has an important historic role in the shaping of aliya and absorption process and that there are still great challenges that JAFI and the ministry are facing. Minister Landver looks forward working together with JAFI’s chairman, Natan Sharansky, on those mutual goals.”
A representative of The Jewish Agency told The Jerusalem Post last year that the age of mass aliya is over, and that the agency’s emphasis is now shifting from bringing individual Jews to Israel to bringing Israel to entire communities, providing them with a Jewish and Zionist connection.
Now that the majority of Jews in Russia, Ethiopia and the Arab world have come to Israel, the representative said, aliya has dropped off.
Aparzev said that while he does not have a problem with the agency’s “Jewish identity” strategy, he believes that “the issue of aliya must receive a more central place.”
The Jewish Agency says “that their strategic plan puts a large emphasis in the area of Jewish identity. But encouraging aliya is secondary and not central,” he said.
“It does not matter that there are groups of Jews in the Diaspora who think this harms them.”
Aparzev said he found it unacceptable that the Jewish Agency has focused on creating communities for Israelis living abroad without coordinating with the state and said that his office is the “office that has the mandate” for dealing with such matters.
“They have not coordinated with us and this outrages me,” Aparzev complained.
Aparzev also lashed out at Nefesh B’Nefesh, the private organization that has taken over promotion and facilitation of aliya from North America from the Jewish Agency.
“There cannot be a situation where every American immigrant must pass through a private organization,” Aparzev said. “They cannot replace the Jewish Agency.”
Neither Nefesh B’Nefesh nor the Jewish Agency responded to Aparzev’s interview, although one Jewish Agency official, on condition of anonymity, told the Post that “at the Jewish Agency we are focused on doing, not on talking.”
One former Jewish Agency official, incensed by Aparzev’s remarks, told the Post that “Aparzev doesn’t know what he's talking about.”
“It’s unfortunate that Aparzev lashes out at the Jewish Agency when he doesn’t actually have a better plan for doing anything differently,” the former official said. “In parts of the former Soviet Union you can still find immigrants by handing out pamphlets, sure. But in America? Forget about it. America is three-quarters of the entire Diaspora, and nobody there is going to respond to some pamphlet of some shaliach [emissary]. I think Apartsev needs to spend a week on a Masa program before making any more pronouncements.”