Special Israel campaign sets priorities

A new immigrant from Argentina arrives in Israel. (Brian Hendler)

A new immigrant from Argentina arrives in Israel. (Brian Hendler)

NEW YORK, May 7 (JTA) — The North American Jewish federation system has designated five priority areas for allocating funds from its Israel emergency campaign. More than $119 million has been raised, most of it since April 8, when the national campaign was officially launched, according to officials of the United Jewish Communities. Already the figure, the bulk of which are funds raised at individual federations, represents the largest amount of emergency funds being designated for Israel during its latest crisis. Many of the details, including specific recipients, of the UJC allocations have yet to be determined. But the priority areas, determined in a series of meetings and conference calls last week, are: • child safety and protection programs, such as security around schools, summer and after-school activities that would keep children off the streets and potential targets of terrorist as well as trauma treatment; • hospitals and other medical needs; • security initiatives, such as posting neighborhood civilian guards and protecting neighborhoods; • aid to Israeli citizens directly impacted by the conflict and terrorist attacks; and • immigration to Israel by Argentine Jews facing severe economic challenges. The UJC had earlier decided to wrap its campaign to aid Argentine Jews into the Israel emergency campaign. The UJC has already pledged $35 million to aid the new immigrants. Money for these purposes will start being directed to the UJC´s overseas partners — the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee — in the next few weeks, said Stephen Hoffman, the UJC´s president and CEO. These agencies will provide the vehicles for distributing much of the funds. Some other agencies in Israel, such as Jewish community centers, may also implement some of the programs, Hoffman said. In addition, $1 million will go to Reform movement programs for children in Israel, under an agreement with the Reform movement´s Union of American Hebrew Congregations. It is not yet clear how the funds will be divided among the five priorities — if, for example, child safety programs will receive more or less money than aid to those affected by terrorism. The only known allocation at this point is the $35 million pledged for Argentine immigration. "That´s off the top so to speak and has to happen no matter what else we do," Hoffman said. It is not yet clear whether all the money being raised by federations since the launch of the emergency campaign will be funneled directly through the UJC or if some federations — many of which began emergency campaigns before the national one was launched in early April — will opt to make their own decisions about allocations. Until very recently, particularly when fund raising for Israel was more challenging, federations often had difficulty reaching consensus about overseas funding decisions. The UJC is asking federations to give the money raised directly to it, so it can allocate to the five priority areas, Hoffman said. However, the UJC is also considering accepting federation dollars that are earmarked for one of the five specific priority areas — or specific projects that fall in these categories. While not all the federations have made their decisions yet, the top professional of one of the largest federations in North America is pledging to give most of that federation´s money directly to the UJC. Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, which has raised $19 million in emergency funds so far, of which it has already wired a few million to the UJC, said this is a "time where there is a real need for collective action." While Chicago "reserves the right to weigh in" on allocations decisions, Nasatir said, it will entrust the bulk of the decisions to the North American body. "Hopefully at the end of the day most federations will see that the funding decisions being made" by the UJC "make the most sense," Nasatir said. The federation campaigns got a boost in late April when the Reform movement agreed to merge its own emergency campaign with the UJC´s. The Reform movement, which represents the largest religious stream of Judaism in the United States, had raised $160,000 at the time of the agreement, and is now urging its members to give directly to their local federations or to the UJC. Similar agreements with the Orthodox Union and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism are expected to be announced next week. Some of the money allocated will be through their programs in Israel in exchange for these movements, like the Reform, to encourage their constituents to contribute to the federation system campaign. Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the O.U., said the O.U. has no objections to the UJC agreement with the Reform movement and is encouraging its constituents to give to the UJC campaign. "We´re working with them to do something similar," he said. "Maybe they started with Reform, but I don´t think we´re insulted about that."

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