Shortly after the 1979 revolution in Iran, which made many of the country’s Jews nervous about their future in a fundamentalist Muslim country, Iranian Jewish families arranged for a few thousand of their children to come alone to the United States to attend Jewish schools.
With its focus on Jewish poverty here and in the former Soviet Union, UJA-Federation's annual fund-raising campaign raised $129.5 million for the year ending June 30. Combined with donations to the capital campaign and planned giving and endowments, the philanthropy brought in $228.8 million: $25 million more than a year ago.
The outpouring of support (an increase of 11 percent) shattered all records, except for times when Israel was at war with its Arab neighbors, according to Stephen Solender, the organizationís executive vice president.
Observing that more and more grandparents are quietly paying their grandchildren's Jewish day school tuition, UJA-Federation has announced a program under which grandparents can underwrite not only their grandchild's Jewish education but those of other youngsters: at no additional cost.
"We really want to make what is happening more formal and to make it financially beneficial for grandparents," said Alisa Rubin Kurshan, executive director of Jewish Educational Planning and Continuity.
When Danielle Zeiler began seriously dating her husband-to-be, Scott Greenwood, she made it clear that if they married, their children would be raised Jews.
"He said fine, but then when we became engaged, he said he wanted his religion represented in the marriage also," recalled the 26-year-old. "I said we had a problem."
Another problem surfaced over the question of who would officiate at the marriage.
After 10 years of helping volunteers who made calls during UJA-Federation's annual Super Sunday event, Avery Goro, 15, of Oceanside, L.I., took to the phones himself last Sunday.
"I made about 50 calls and raised about $2,000," he said with obvious pride. "In one call, I got a $500 pledge. I was surprised and said, 'Thank you very much.'"
Local Jewish leaders returned from a 37-hour solidarity trip to Israel this week strengthened in their resolve that, as UJA-Federation executive vice president John Ruskay put it, "We're all in this together."
He added that Israelis seemed committed to "stand firm, particularly after the prime minister had made such an offer for peace" this summer at Camp David. But Ruskay also sensed "an undercurrent of despondency. The choices are difficult and limited, and that's what makes this a crisis."