JNF to slash its operations, send more to Israel

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NEW YORK — The Jewish National Fund of America has approved plans to cut $5.1 million from its budget, and has pledged to send 70 percent of the money it raises annually to Israel by the year 2001.

The planned cuts involve closing five regional offices and eliminating 32 full-time posts.

The administrative committee of the Zionist philanthropy — best known for planting trees in Israel — approved the initiatives Tuesday.

The moves were recommended by a national task force appointed earlier this year to reassess the group's priorities and examine its finances and structure.

The appointment was made after an audit last year revealed fiscal mismanagement in the organization and the fact that only 21 percent of the funds raised were actually being transferred to Israel.

As part of an effort to restore credibility and stature to JNF, Ronald Lauder, a philanthropist and former ambassador to Austria, was named president.

Lauder, who had called on the committee to endorse the recommendations, said in a statement Tuesday, "Mistakes were made that have blemished the organization's reputation and impacted its effectiveness in meeting its primary objective: sending funds to reclaim land, plant trees, conserve water and connect people in the United States to the land of Israel."

JNF's campaign totaled more than $30 million in fiscal 1996, but will show a decline in the coming fiscal year, officials say.

Former United Jewish Appeal official Russell Robinson assumed the post of JNF executive vice president earlier this month. Details of the cuts, including lists of which offices would be closed, were not immediately available.