Gitel D., a college graduate, was living an upper-middle-class life in an apartment on Central Park West. Married to a professional with a doctorate, she did volunteer work for UJA-Federation, joining its Business and Professional Women's Division and sitting on its government relations committee.
"Then my life took a detour," she said.
For seven years Bertha Laufer, an intelligent, articulate, retired New York City English teacher, lived in a non-Jewish nursing home in the Bronx and would help some of her nurses with their high school equivalency courses. But none of her relatives lived in New York and as the years went by, she became lonelier and lonelier.
"She wanted someone to talk to her about books and ideas," recalled Laufer's niece, Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer of Philadelphia. "She could quote Milton and Shakespeare by heart and there was no one for her to talk to."
For Martin Bender of Commack, L.I., legally blind from diabetes for the past 15 years, books on tape have been a "life saver."
"For a year and a half I was stuck in bed with a bone infection," said Bender, 65. "I have a TV but I don't see colors, only shadows, so TV is a waste. I spent 16 hours a day listening to the tapes. I would have gone crazy without them."
The tapes, as well as large-print books and books in Braille, are available from the Jewish Braille Institute of America.
St. Petersburg, Fla. — In a bold address that implicitly criticized his constituents, the president of the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) said this week that in response to the economic crisis, member philanthropists and foundations must change the way they way they do business by consolidating efforts, collaborating with each other and sacrificing pet projects for the greater good of the community.
John Ruskay, the CEO and executive vice president of UJA-Federation of New York, started out as a leader of the havurah movement and critic of the federation system, while Jeffrey Solomon, the president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, was once chief operating officer of UJA-Federation (and was responsible for hiring Ruskay).
In an unprecedented emergency appeal, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is calling upon its congregants to donate money to help the 8,700 Ethiopians of Jewish descent, or Falash Mura, who are going hungry there now that all food programs have ended.
Close calls are becoming a staple of solidarity missions to the south of Israel (witness Mayor Michael Bloomberg ducking into a bomb shelter on a recent trip to Sderot just before a Hamas-launched rocket hit nearby).
But a delegation of Jewish federation leaders visiting the south this week got a more complete, and poignant, taste of what life is like for Israelis living in the shadow of the Gaza border.
To provide for the increased needs of Holocaust survivors, the Claims Conference has increased by 16 percent its annual allocation to 34 New York agencies that serve about 20,000 survivors.
“In these times of severe crisis for Jewish philanthropy, the increase in Claims Conference funds for social services is even more essential to the wellbeing of elderly Nazi victims,” according to Julius Berman, the conference chairman.
Lisa Ostad, a 32-year-old mother of three from Manhattan, ran in last Sunday’s 15K New York Road Runner race through Central Park to raise money for an indoor playground dedicated March 10 in the Israeli southern city of Sderot. The $5 million facility — equipped with a small indoor soccer field, video games, movie theater, fun-house mirrors, a climbing wall, food court and disco — was built by the Jewish National Fund in 10 months with 300 tons of steel to enable it to withstand rocket attacks from Palestinian terrorists in neighboring Gaza.
The Israeli government is dismissing an Egyptian report that kidnapped Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit is in reasonable health, according Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom.
“Unless we will be there or someone we can rely on will give us a symbol of life, I don’t think we can take rumors as proof of what’s going on,” Shalom said, following a New York rally Thursday marking the third anniversary of Shalit’s abduction.