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Jewish Streams Unite to Raise Funds for Israel

May 21, 2002
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In a rare show of unity, the four major Jewish streams are folding their individual fund-raising efforts for Israel into the broad emergency campaign sponsored by the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella group of North American Jewish federations.

The effort is a “show of unity among the streams of Judaism that is not seen often enough,” Harvey Blitz, president of the Orthodox Union, said at a news conference announcing the joining of forces on Monday.

Leaders of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist movements pledged their support of the UJC’s Israel Emergency Campaign, which aims to raise $300 million.

Since its launch on April 8, the campaign has raised $120 million, according to UJC officials.

The funds are being directed to child safety and recreational programs; hospitals; security measures; aid to terror victims; and immigration to Israel by Argentine Jews facing severe economic challenges.

Between $750,000 and $1 million of those funds will be apportioned to each of the four streams to carry out services through their branches in Israel.

The movements have identified certain projects for the funds to UJC and officials will, in turn, respond to those requests.

Distancing themselves from the acrimony that often shapes interdenominational relations when it comes to Israel, where only the Orthodox movement is officially recognized, the religious leaders said they did not mind that the even apportionment might not reflect member-populations or even dollars contributed to the UJC.

For the UJC, it’s a chance to partner with the religious streams, said Rabbi Eric Lankin, director of UJC’s religious and educational activities.

In a nod to the issue of pluralism that has divided American Jewry, Lankin said the UJC “recognizes that all the religious movements have successful programs in Israel” and the organization is “committed to supporting all of them.”

The Reform movement was the first to wed its fund-raising campaign to the UJC’s on April 29.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said that when UJC officials said they would finance the Reform movement’s programs in Israel in the interest of unity, “there was every reason to join together and no reason not to.”

The Reform movement’s request for the funds has been approved, the Conservative movement’s is currently being reviewed and the Orthodox and Reconstructionist streams have not yet been submitted.

Now that the other streams have followed suit, Yoffie said the American Jewish community has come to resemble the United States when Americans came together to raise money for victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

After an intifada that has killed 500 Israelis — proportionally more than the number of Americans killed on Sept. 11 — and wounded and maimed seven times that many, American Jews have “come together to do what the American people did” — to tell the victims they are not alone and to tell the terrorists they are.

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