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JNF Pushke Boxes Still Blue, but Now Come with Disclaimer

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The traditional blue boxes of the Jewish National Fund of America will look a bit different from now on as a result of a recent court ruling.

The boxes, known as pushkes in Yiddish, will still carry a map of the State of Israel, as they have for decades.

However, a disclaimer reading “Funds contributed to the Jewish National Fund of America are used only for projects within the Green Line” will now accompany the map.

In a Dec. 6 ruling, Judge Shirley Fingerhood of the New York State Supreme Court ordered the disclaimer on all JNF fund-raising materials, including the blue boxes, which show a map of Israel that includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The decision came after a yearlong legal battle between JNF, which supports afforestation in Israel, and a group called “The Ad-Hoc Committee for Jewish Survival in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan.”

The committee filed suit against JNF, charging that the charity misled donors into believing that it supported projects on both sides of the Green Line, while in reality, it only allowed funds to be used within the pre-1967 borders.

OFFERS TO PRINT DISCLAIMER

JNF had earlier in negotiations offered to print the disclaimer, but the committee had not accepted it.

The committee’s leader, Michael Teplow, also heads Tehiya USA. Teplow said that his group was not satisfied with the disclaimer and would pursue its case until JNF agrees to allocate funds in the administered territories.

Judge Fingerhood was asked to hold JNF in contempt of court for defying an earlier injunction, in which the organization was ordered to cease producing “deceptive” literature.

But Fingerhood denied the motion for contempt, and instead clarified the earlier injunction to specify that the disclaimer be printed on fundraising material “which contains a map, outline of a map or a depiction of the area of the State of Israel showing the territories beyond the Green Line.”

The committee continues to maintain that even this injunction is too weak.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words,” Rubin said, “then clearly the small disclaimer now required on JNF literature cannot counteract its misleading and deceptive nature.”

The injunction is related to a charge based on the General Business Law regarding misleading advertising. It is the only original charge by the committee against the charitable organization which is still standing.

FRAUD CHARGES DISMISSED

Four additional charges of fraud against the organization were thrown out by Fingerhood last March, and the committee is appealing that decision.

Meanwhile, JNF is appealing the decision not to dismiss the first charge.

JNF’s communications director, Stuart Paskow, expressed satisfaction with the modified injunction.

“JNF originally volunteered to put a disclaimer on all our material containing maps of Israel,” Paskow said. “Had the plaintiffs accepted this offer, the case would have been over quite a while ago.”

JNF maintains, as it has throughout the case, that the committee’s charges of fraud and deception are without factual basis.

“The JNF of America has never made false claims that it sponsored projects beyond the Green Line, and it has never denied that it works only within pre-1967 Israel,” said Paskow.

“Those individuals who write to us asking for a statement of our policies are told exactly where we stand,” he said.

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