NEW YORK (Jul. 21)
The Board of Directors of the New Israel Fund (NIF), at their biannual meeting in Jerusalem, approved grants for 25 organizations involved in improving social change in Israel, including the establishment of the country’s first Legal Defense Center, it was announced here by Jonathan Jacoby, NIF executive director.
“The 25 organizations chosen to receive more than $250,000 bringing our total 1986 distribution of funds to nearly $1 million, represents our commitment to the future of Israel,” Jacoby said. “The Israel Legal Defense Center, which will operate under the auspices of the Israel Association for Civil Rights, is a ground breaking step towards establishing respect for litigation as a nonpartisan tool for promoting civil rights.”
The Israel Legal Defense Center is a partial outgrowth of the Israel-U.S. Civil Liberties Law Program. The Law Program, initiated two years ago by NIF, brings Israeli lawyers to The American University in Washington, D.C. for a Master’s Degree in the field of civil liberties. This year’s Fellows, Avigdor Feldman and Netta Goldman, will return to Israel shortly to work in the Israel Legal Defense Center and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
The idea for an Israel Legal Defense Center also emerged from a task force of Israelis who were appointed by the NIF to recommend ways in which Israel’s democracy can be further strengthened, Jacoby said. As part of their deliberations, task force members held consultations with North American citizens’ action specialists in New York and Washington.
SUPPORTING A WHOLE RANGE OF PROGRAMS
This comprehensive approach to social change is in keeping with NIF’s style of grantmaking, he said. For example, among the 25 grantees were the Association for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, which is the first Israeli organization confronting domestic violence by working with men who batter their wives.
Recently, a follow-up study of what happens to women after they leave the Battered Women’s Shelters, supported by NIF, was published in Hebrew and English. Last year, an American psychologist specializing in working with husbands who batter, conducted workshops under NIF auspices.
“Not one of our grantees, working in isolation, can single-handedly determine the ‘battle for the soul of Israel’,” said NIF president, David Arnow. “But taken as a whole, these groups are the best hope for helping Israel fulfill its founding ideals of justice and equality.” NIF’s uniqueness, he emphasized, “is in supporting the whole range of programs working to realize these goals.”
Almost half of the organizations receiving grants were previous beneficiaries of NIF. These included the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, ELI – the Association for Protection of the Child, the religious pluralism advocate, Chemdat, the Rape Crisis Center of Haifa, and Shutafut (Partnership), which promotes Jewish-Arab cooperation in the northern regions of Israel.
The NIF describes itself as a partnership of Israelis and North American Jews dedicated to social justice and the democratic process in Israel.