In light of the world economic crisis, the Jewish Agency is cutting its budget by $45 million - over 11%.

In a special press conference on Wednesday, Jewish Agency leaders announced that they would cut back activities, but would make sure not to harm the organization's three main activities: Encouraging Aliyah [immigration] to Israel, bolstering Jewish education, and reducing social gaps in the Israeli periphery.

Just three weeks ago, after Arab-Jewish violence in the northern city of Akko, Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski announced a grant of 300,000 shekels to the town for education for Jewish-Arab co-existence.

Some Agency workers are to lose their jobs, but not before many who are close to retirement are enticed to retire early. Employees in the former Soviet Union and in countries where Aliyah potential is low will be the first to feel the budget cuts.

First the Dollar, Now the Tsunami

The Agency began to consider the cuts a number of months ago, Bielsky stated, because of the drop in the dollar relative to the shekel. The "financial tsunami" of recent weeks, he said, merely worsened the situation. The bottom line is that the international donations on which the Jewish Agency has always relied are expected to dwindle.

Among the Jewish Agency's programs that are expected to be cut will be Naaleh (Noar Oleh Lifnei Horim) for youths who immigrate to Israel without their parents, as well as the Students Authority, which helps young immigrants with their education. "Hopefully the government will assume this burden," Bielski said, "so that the immigrants will not feel the crunch."

In addition, some absorption centers are expected to be closed, and aid to Yad Vashem will be reduced as well.

To see a copy of the Jewish Agency's budget for 2008, click here.

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