Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s denial last week that northern Israel is in dire need of aid — the very picture painted by Jewish federations that have raised millions in war relief funds — is etching the latest chapter in the complicated tale of diaspora philanthropy.
The United Jewish Communities’ Israel Emergency Campaign has raised some $260 million to address economic and social service needs created by the month-long rain of Hezbollah rockets last summer and the continuing shelling of Sderot from Gaza in the south.
It was while Judith Stern Peck was thinking of a birthday gift for her first grandchild that she came upon an idea that promises to give her and her granddaughter enjoyment for years to come. “This child didn’t need another dress or another toy,” said Peck. “And I think it is very important to teach the value of giving back. That’s when I came up with the idea of creating a Children’s Gift Fund.”
A $17,000 grant to provide counseling and vocational training to women victims of domestic violence was one of two gifts awarded last week by the 3-year-old Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York. The foundation, which itself just received a $500,000 grant from UJA-Federation to hire clerical staff and cover promotional expenses, also presented a $25,000 check to the New York Legal Assistance Group. The goal of both grants is to educate low-income Jewish women so they can become economically self-sufficient and reduce their dependence on welfare programs.
When Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn of New York saw television pictures of Albanian refugees fleeing Kosovo, their first thoughts were of how best to help them.
“At first we wanted to give money to the Red Cross,” said Harriet. “But then we thought of the American Jewish Committee, where we have a good relationship.”
Their donation had established the AJCommittee’s Interreligious Understanding Institute to promote understanding between Jews and Arabs. So they called and donated money to establish a disaster relief fund.
Just months after Susan M. of the Bronx underwent triple bypass surgery following a heart attack, she was threatened with eviction and a cutoff of her phone, gas and electric service.
“I didn’t know where to turn,” said the 58-year-old widow.
Susan, whose husband died of cancer 20 years ago, leaving her with two small children and no life insurance, said she was physically unable to return to her secretarial job and had no savings.
A broad swath of center-right American Jewish groups is expressing shock and outrage that millions of dollars being raised by Jewish federations in North America for the post-war recovery effort in Israel is being used in part to help Israeli Arabs.
In an effort to help war-weary young adults in northern Israel escape the constant rocket attacks by Hezbollah and learn something about their country, Taglit-birthright israel will begin providing free weeklong trips similar to the educational programs offered to diaspora Jewry.
More than 400 people participated in a recent walk-a-thon at the Henry Kaufman Campgrounds in Wheatley Heights, home of the new Sunrise Day Camp for youngsters with cancer and their siblings.
Believed to be the only day camp of its kind in the United States, this six-week day camp is free of charge to participants and has already raised $1.3 million. It expects to open July 10 with between 60 and 100 children ages 31/2 to 16.
Although charities have reportedly spent two-thirds of the record $3.27 billion in disaster relief money raised for the victims of Hurricane Katrina last August, the United Jewish Communities still has more than half of the $28.5 million it raised and plans to spend it for human needs during the next two years, the organization said this week.
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.'"