WASHINGTON (Oct. 29)
Jewish groups were largely unhappy with the last-minute adoption by the departing 101st Congress of a $22 billion child-care bill.
The bill, which is the first of its kind since World War II, allows sectarian day-care institutions receiving federal funds to favor those of the same religion in their hiring and enrollment policies.
States would be able to distribute as much as $2.5 billion in federal funds directly to synagogues and churches that run religious-oriented day-care programs under the new law.
Jewish groups were not opposed to having synagogues and churches benefit from the program, so long as they ran non-sectarian child-care programs. But most Jewish groups did not want such programs to include religious instruction, citing their view that there should be a strict separation between church and state.
Among the groups supporting that view were the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, B’nai Brith International, National Council of Jewish Women and Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
But Orthodox Jewish groups, especially Agudath Israel of America, which actively lobbied in favor of the adopted language, were happy with the bill.
Congress also approved a $287 million bill providing grants to institutions that do community service work. Agudath Israel was instrumental in alerting Congress to include religious institutions as possible beneficiaries.
In other legislative action, Congress adopted a deficit-reduction bill that limits allowable tax deductions. But officials of Jewish organizations do not expect it to have a major impact on contributions to Jewish causes.
The provision requires those earning more than $100,000 to subtract 3 percent of each dollar they earn over $100,000 from their total itemized deductions, excluding those for medical expenses.