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Job losses as the Jewish Agency shrinks in Israel

    The Jewish Agency for Israel is to close for a fortnight in the summer as a money-saving measure, docking pay from employees.

    With a budget gap of more than £2 million, the charity was going to lay off 50 employees, but the workers' union agreed to the furlough as an alternative, its spokesman Michael Jankelowitz said. It will begin on August 21.

    He added that the union has also agreed to contribute $500,000 (£300,000) to the Agency's budget.

    The decision about the furlough came last Thursday, the day after the charity instituted a major restructuring plan across the organisation.

    While many of the changes taking place are bureaucratic, one will directly impact on diaspora Jews.

    It has shifted its emphasis away from promoting aliyah and towards promoting "Jewish identity" in the diaspora. Its Aliyah and Absorption Department, which promoted aliyah worldwide, is in the process of closing.

    The Agency will continue to work in diaspora communities, but its focus will be Jewish identity and education, and processing applications for Israeli citizenship. The World Zionist Organisation will step in to the breach of promoting aliyah, doing so in partnership with local affiliates - in the case of the UK, the Zionist Federation.

    The change means that the average diaspora Jew is more likely to come into contact with people promoting aliyah, said Marty Davis, director-general of the WZO's Jerusalem-based Department for Zionist Activities. "There will be more emissaries as Hebrew teachers going out, more shlichim in communities, and more people helping with campus activities," he said.

    Menachem Leibovic, a senior WZO official in Jerusalem and manager of the body's aliyah promotion programme for Britain, said that in the UK efforts will focus on convincing people that they can move to Israel without compromising on their quality of life. "The economic situation in Israel is now very good," he said.

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