World ORT, JDC make Haiti pitch to federations


The Jewish Federations of North America convened a Feb. 26 conference call to update the federations they serve about the ongoing fund-raising and operations in Haiti.

The call gave the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and World ORT, two of the federations’ official overseas partners, the chance to make their fund-raising pitches to federation officials as the federations try to figure out how to allocate the more than $5 million they have raised in the aftermath of January’s earthquake.

Jewish Federations is convening a similar conference call Monday with the American Jewish World Service and IsrAID, two organizations that are not official partners but have received significant donations for their work on the ground in Haiti.

Some stats from the Jewish Federations, courtesy of William Daroff, who moderated the call:

* 101 federations are directing donors to the JDC Web site, have opened mailboxes for donations or are directing donors to other outside Web sites that are responding to the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. Of the 101 federations, 63 have opened their own mailboxes to collect donations.

* Through FEDweb alone, $718,826 has been raised.

* Most federations had mailboxes opened 48 hours after the earthquake struck Haiti.

Federations also are allocating funds to the following organizations: IsraAID, American Jewish World Service, Partners in Health, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the Canadian Red Cross and ZAKA.

Will Recant, the director of the JDC’s International Development Program, which oversees disaster relief and nonsectarian projects, made the pitch for his organization. According to Recant, JDC bought 110 water tanks through an on-the-ground agency called Pro-Development at a cost of $440,000. And it spent $50,000 to buy incubators for the emergency field hospital set up by IsrAID.

The organization now is looking at a three- to five-year plan for long-term relief that might include building an Israeli-style village for 10,000 to 20,000 people.

Recant said the JDC is working closely with IsrAID, USAID and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.  

“Every place we are, it is known that this is a Jewish organization and Jewish assistance being given, and the funds come from North American Jews,” Recant said. “That must be known and publicized.”

Harry Nadler, World ORT’s North American representative to the Jewish Federations, said World ORT is offering to build a vocational school in the region to school 500 15- to 17-year-olds a year. World ORT has not had an operational presence in the Caribbean nation, though in the 1990s it did serve as a consultant to a unit of the country’s education ministry."

Fundermentalist’s take: This felt very much like a fund-raising call and part of what seems to be shaping up as a very subtle, brewing battle between the JDC and the American Jewish World Service.

Make no mistake, the AJWS is gaining traction on the JDC as the go-to place for overseas disaster relief. While in the aftermath of the tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2005, the JDC out-raised AJWS $19 million to $11.5 million. With Haiti, however, the numbers are much closer. Recant says the JDC has raised about $5.8 million through its mailboxes; the AJWS has raised $5.2 million.

While much of the JDC’s money has come from federations, several major federations also have given money to the AJWS, including The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin & Sonoma Counties, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, according to a Jewish Federations of North America spokesman.

And several federations are still deciding how they should allocate their Haiti money, though it seems the bulk of this funding will go to JDC.

The AJWS says the money coming from federations is still a "small percentage" of what it has raised, but federations are certainly starting to look at AJWS as a viable partner alongside the JDC.

Jewish Federations is giving both the JDC and AJWS a chance to make their case, but certainly gave its traditional partner first crack.

According to a source, the AJWS asked that it be able to talk to the federations on the same phone call — but its request was rejected.

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