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Chabad project vying for $1 million prize

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NEW YORK (JTA) — A Chabad-initiated project is among the top finalists in a national competition that will award $1 million to a local charity.

The Friendship Circle, a Michigan-based project that helps families with children with special needs, was in fourth place this week with just over 43,000 votes in the JP Morgan Chase Bank contest. The bank is offering $5 million in prizes to charities with budgets smaller than $5 million through its Chase Community Giving Project.

The top vote earner will earn $1 million, while those in the top five will receive $100,000. Voting for the top finalists closes Friday.

The bank created a platform on which charities could create fan pages and ask for votes. Thousands of charities created pages, and the top 100 vote getters by Dec. 12 were named finalists and awarded $25,000 each. The top finalists are now competing in a second round of voting.

Though Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization that fights breast cancer, was started in honor of a Jewish woman, and Seeds of Peace works in Israel seeking a solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict, the Friendship Circle is the overtly Jewish project.

Founded in 1994 by Rabbi Levi and Bassie Shemtov in West Bloomfield, Mich., the Friendship Circle now has 65 branches in the United States, Canada, Australia, France and China comprising 4,000 beneficiaries and their families, and more than 8,000 volunteers. At its annual conference in Newark, N.J., last week, Friendship Circle International announced that the program was well on track to have 100 branches operating worldwide by the end of this year. 

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