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Soros gives major boost to Jewish Fund for Justice

NEW YORK, Dec.2 (JTA) — Financier and philanthropist George Soros is boosting the bank balance of the Jewish Fund for Justice by $1.3 million — his second-ever gift to a Jewish organization. Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew who earned his fortune managing hedge funds, which are high-risk, high-yield investments, has distributed millions around the globe to support everything from pro-democracy work in former communist countries to groups lobbying for the decriminalization of marijuana. Only recently has he given any money to a Jewish organization. His Open Society Institute’s Emma Lazarus Fund gave $1.3 million to the Council of Jewish Federations in August to fund naturalization programs for immigrants, primarily Jews from the former Soviet Union. The gift to the Jewish Fund for Justice is by far the largest that the anti-poverty and community development grant-making group has ever received, said Marlene Provizer, the group’s executive director. Provizer called Soros’ interest in the group “a natural fit” because of commitments both have to assisting refugees and immigrants, investing in youth and building community. The group raises money in the Jewish community and distributes it to community organizations across the United States. The fund was founded in 1984 and began making grants the following year. It has awarded $4.3 million in grants to over 400 community- based groups since then. Past grantees include The Interfaith Coalition for Immigrants’ Rights in San Francisco; the Jewish Community Housing Development Corporation in Washington, D.C., and the Omaha Together One Community, a campaign to increase services to local youth. Last year it distributed just over $600,000, an amount it will be able to increase by more than half this year as a result of Soros’ grant. The bulk of the Soros gift — $1 million — is a challenge grant to be allocated over three years. The fund has already raised about $300,000 of the matching funds it needs, it said in a statement. Part of the money from Soros, $300,000, will be used by the fund for institutional development, to help it broaden its base of support, Provizer said.