More for Reform, Conservative? Top fund-raisers search for a way

NEW YORK, May 13 (JTA) — Top Jewish fund-raisers are meeting with representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements to find ways to raise more money for their programs in Israel. Talks were held in Chicago this week, where the United Jewish Appeal is holding board meetings. Under consideration is a plan to allocate $20 million a year — $10 million each “in designated giving” — to Reform and Conservative enterprises, said Richard Wexler, national UJA chairman. That money would be “over and above” the allocations federations make for overseas needs, he stressed. Federations allocate a portion of their campaign money to UJA for distribution overseas and keep the remainder at home for local programs. UJA and the federations’ umbrella body, the Council of Jewish Federations, are in the process of forging a partnership. The joint campaign has been under increasing pressure from the grass roots to allocate more of its money to the non-Orthodox streams in Israel, where Orthodoxy has an official monopoly over religious affairs. Recent efforts by Orthodox parties in Israel to legislate Orthodox control have prompted some American Jews to threaten a boycott of the campaign. UJA has responded by trying to send the message that such a boycott would only hurt the Jewish needy around the world as well as the funding for the religious streams in Israel. For its part, CJF recently recommended doubling the spending for Reform and Conservative programs in Israel. The system currently allocates about $1 million each to Reform and Conservative programs there and about half a million dollars to the Orthodox. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said Chicago’s meeting was the first in a series with UJA aimed at creating a “closer partnership” and finding ways to secure more funding for non-Orthodox programs in Israel. It is “too early to tell on the basis of the meeting what will come” of the effort, but “the process will continue.” Wexler said there were plans to meet with the Orthodox Union to explore how UJA “can be of assistance” to the Orthodox in Israel. He also said the next meeting with the Conservative and Reform leaders would be held late next month in Israel.

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