As many as 1,000 Iranian Jews will soon be able to leave their homeland for Austria, the first step in a two-step process for gaining admission to the United States as refugees.
Until now, these Jews were unable to apply for Austrian visas because they did not have friends or relatives outside of Iran who could put up the requisite $2,100 security deposit needed for those wishing to wait in Vienna while their refugee applications are reviewed. The money is required to assure Austria that the applicants do not become wards of the state.
Israel needs your money but save the tzedaka, says the board chairman of a new Israeli mutual fund that will invest exclusively in Israeli companies.
"Israel does not need charity, only investments," said Shlomo Eplboim of the Blue and White Fund (the colors of the Israeli flag), set to debut Dec. 31.
Charges that members of the Likud Partyís Central Committee sold their votes for cash and other favors in this month's primary (and to a lesser extent allegations of voting irregularities in the Labor Party primary) have rocked the Israeli electorate, with one poll showing that one-fifth of Israelis plan to change their vote because of it.
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."
Yehudit Moch of Park Slope walked into St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village last week sporting a T-shirt embroidered with a large Star of David.
"You'd better close your jacket," said the receptionist, who was half-Jewish. "It's not safe to be wearing that on the streets of New York."
Phyllis Blackman had been alternately attending the West Side Jewish Center and a Chabad synagogue when she suddenly sprained her ankle and found herself unable to walk more than a block. "And then like magic, they opened this synagogue around the corner from me," she said, referring to the Jewish Enrichment Center on the second floor of 176 Madison Ave. at 34th Street. "I had known the rabbi from [his previous pulpit at] the Murray Hill Synagogue. When he opened here, he called me and invited me to check it out."
Bernice Myones of Seaford glowed as she watched her mother sing, clap and sway to the music as she and nearly 100 other residents of the Gurwin Jewish Geriatric Center in Commack helped celebrate her 108th birthday. Asked the secret of her mother's longevity, Myones, 71, chuckled.
"I wish I knew," she said. "I'd bottle it and sell it."
Her mother, Ann Kierstein, seated in a wheelchair and alert, offered no insight herself.
"You live naturally," she said.
An influx of grants in the last two years has uplifted the learning experience at Temple Beth Israel. Figure things now to get downright exhilarating. The 225-family Conservative congregation in Port Washington has received a $500,000 donation to enhance Jewish programing in what it is believed to be the largest gift of its kind.
"It will enable us to hire someone with top credentials in Jewish education to turn us upside down and reassemble everything in a new and exciting way," said Rabbi Toni Shy.
With the nation riveted to the political turmoil in Washington, Jewish women at a conference in Woodbury were told that the Jewish community's clout depended on their involvement on the political stage.
"Political activism is necessary for the preservation of Jewish freedoms and institutions, and for the safety and security of Israel," said Betty Ehrenberg, executive director of the Orthodox Union's Institute for Public Affairs. "Jews have reached a point of privilege in society because they have fought in the political arena and made their voices heard."
For 12 years, Diane Thurer of Dix Hills has been filling boxes with school supplies and holiday treats for a poor family in Mississippi she has never met but which expresses its gratitude through letters.
"It really is a commitment, but you do bring sunshine into that family's home," said Thurer of the national Box Project. "You really get back more than you give."
Now a Jewish group wants to replicate that effort in behalf of the Jewish poor in Suffolk County. If successful, there are plans to extend the project to Nassau.