Federation Breaks with UJA on Means of Giving to Israel

Taking discontent over Israel’s economic policies to a new extreme, a Massachusetts federation has made a radical break from the United Jewish Appeal.

The Jewish Federation of the North Shore is allocating up to half of the money that would have gone to the UJA and giving it to a fund for small-business loans in Israel’s Negev region.

“We think philanthropy has a lot of faces other than the traditional faces, and one of them is giving a man a job,” said Neil Cooper, the federation’s executive director.

Creating jobs, said Cooper, is necessary for the continuation and success of the immigration from the former Soviet Union.

But members of the traditional federation and UJA system are furious.

“It is an abrogation of their partnership responsibilities to the task of bringing Jews home from the country of distress,” said Daniel Allen, assistant executive vice president of the United Israel Appeal, which oversees the money the UJA disburses in Israel to the Jewish Agency.

“Without the funds of the federation system, the Jewish Agency will not be able to continue the work of bringing 60,000 or more Jews to Israel from the former Soviet Union each year,” said Allen.

The Jewish Agency pays all immigration costs and some resettlement costs for Jews immigrating to Israel. Its $500 million annual budget is financed by the UJA and similar fund-raising organizations around the world.

A CHOICE FOR DONORS

Donors to this year’s North Shore federation campaign, which is expected to bring in about $2.5 million, were given the chance to divide their gift, which helps Jews overseas, between the UJA and programs designed to create jobs.

This is believed to be the first time a federation gave donors the choice to contribute to Israel through a means other than UJA.

Cooper expects that when the pledges and choices are counted, the federation will be able to give 50 percent of the overseas money to the job creation program.

Last month, the federation decided that the money designated for job creation will go toward interest free loans. It allocated $100,000 to the Israel Free Loan Association, and the remainder — likely to be $500,000 — to a new non-profit loan fund, being set up by the San Francisco-based Koret Foundation.

“I think we’re filling a much unaddressed niche in the Israeli economy,” said Bob Lappin, chairman of the federation’s Israel Free Market and Direct Economic Aid Committee.

In putting economic development on an equal footing to the UJA, the North Shore federation has raised to new levels an issue that has been steadily rising on the agenda of the federation and UJA system.

The Operation Exodus campaign to raise money for the absorption Jews from the states of the former Soviet Union has allowed federations to devote up to 5 percent of the funds to development projects, and there will be an economic development component to the Jewish Agency’s forthcoming Project 2000.

“We have a piece of economic development, but it doesn’t become 50 percent,” said Brian Lurie, executive vice president of UJA.

“The idea that we can take a massive role in creating jobs — that’s not our business,” he said. “There is a tremendous role for Jewish philanthropy in Israel that hasn’t ended.”

It was Lurie who, as director of San Francisco’s Jewish federation, several years ago became the first to break ranks with the UJA and to allocate money to Israel independently.

That was different, he said. The amount, $100,000, allocated independently was only 5 percent of the campaign, not 50 percent, he said.

And his goal “was to reform the system. They’re going totally outside the system.”

But at the North Shore Federation, Cooper insists “We’re still partners.”

In the past year, Cooper’s federation has taken a gadfly role within the system.

It has called on the UJA to review its relationship with the Jewish Agency.

And it offered a sharply worded resolution before the Council of Jewish Federations’ Board of Delegates criticizing “Israel’s socialist orientation.” The resolution was overwhelmingly defeated.

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