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Federations’ officials make aid pleas

The top professionals of the Jewish federation system’s overseas arms appealed for financial help for their organizations.

The chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Ze’ev Bielski, and the executive vice president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Steve Schwager, made their pleas Sunday night to lay and professional leaders at the United Jewish Communities’ General Assembly in Jerusalem.

Both told the crowd of 3,000 to 4,000 attending the opening plenary at the International Convention Center that they needed their financial support despite tough economic times.

“I want you to know that we care about the dollars we get from you, and that we invest them the best we can to bring people to Israel and to invest in Jewish education,” said Bielski, who last month announced that his agency would need to slash its budget by $45 million for next year because of fund-raising difficulties.

“I know the economic crisis isn’t an easy thing for you,” he said. “I know what you are going through, when so much depends on what is happening. But I will tell you we have to make a double effort. We have to see that the needs of the Jewish people all over the world and in Israel are met.”

Bielski and Schwager both used the recent crisis in Georgia in their appeals.

Bielski said the Jewish Agency helped 200 Jews caught in the crossfire when Russian troops invaded the country escape to Israel, while Schwager said the JDC helped Jews who did not want to leave. He cited Clara Kogan, a 102-year-old shut-in with no family who would not leave her Moldova apartment when her neighborhood was bombed. The JDC helped feed her, Schwager said.

“As your federations raise and allocate funds in these difficult times,” he said, “please do not forget about Clara Kogan. We are a global people. We can only be one united Jewish community if we are united behind Jews in need around the globe.”

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