With government funding to Jewish organizations being slashed and Jewish federation campaigns running either flat or down, a new study has discovered that billions of dollars from the country's biggest Jewish philanthropists are going to universities, health and the arts. And the Jewish community wants to learn why.
The study, by the Institute for Jewish & Communal Research, found that only 6 percent of the $5.3 billion in mega-gifts Jews donated to individual institutions between 1995 and 2000 went to Jewish institutions. A mega-gift is $10 million or more.
Maj. David "Bull" Gurfein, a Long Island native who re-enlisted in the Marines after 9-11, is carrying with him in the battlefields of Iraq a small chunk of concrete from the remains of the World Trade Center.
"It was 9-11 that triggered his desire to go back, especially after he went to Ground Zero," said his mother, Vivien. "He showed his [military] card and the police and firemen there handed him some pieces of concrete. He was weeping when he saw what happened there. ... They said to him, 'Go get 'em.'"
The popular birthright israel program that has brought 40,000 college-age students to Israel in the last three years narrowly averted a funding crisis this week. The Israeli cabinet restored much of the $14 million the Finance Ministry had proposed eliminating as part of the government's emergency budget plan. Had all the money been cut, it may have forced the end of the project.
"It's encouraging to see that the Israeli leadership recognizes the importance of its role in the birthright israel program for world Jewry," said Marlene Post, chairman of the organization.
Even as American and British troops continued fighting in Iraq, British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in the United States this week in part to press the Bush administration to finally release the "road map," a Palestinian-Israeli peace plan leading to a Palestinian state by 2005.
Israel's new foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, also arrives this week to meet senior administration officials. The road map is expected to be a prime topic of discussion.
Just minutes after the blazing sun set in the Kuwaiti desert last Saturday, and as a lone candle flickered in a tent at Camp Commando near the Iraqi border, one of four Jewish soldiers at the evening Sabbath service began to cry when Rabbi Irving Elson put his hands on his shoulders and prayed.
"Be strong and of courage and trust in the Lord," Rabbi Elson said, quoting from the Book of Joshua.
Israelis were told to keep their gas masks with them at all times as they braced for an Iraqi missile assault Prime Minister Ariel Sharon insists has "only a 1 percent" chance of happening.
What has many Israelis worried even more is the possibility of a major terrorist attack in Israel as the American-led military coalition advances toward Baghdad.
The surprise announcement by President George W. Bush last Friday that he was on the verge of releasing the "road map" to Israeli-Palestinian peace was seen as a "gift to the Jewish people" by one observer and a cause for concern by another.
"It wipes away the accusation that the war with Iraq is to save Israeli hegemony in the region," said Stephen Cohen, national scholar of the Israel Policy Forum. "The president did more with that speech than all the programs of the last two years to combat anti-Semitism."
Three founders of an Orthodox yeshiva in Smithtown, L.I., upset over the school's closing last fall, have announced plans to start another Orthodox yeshiva in Suffolk County next year.
But their plan to open in the same building they helped erect 40 years ago (the Hebrew Academy of Suffolk County) has been complicated by the group that closed the elementary school after 20 years of operation.
Brandeis University is developing a center for Middle Eastern studies that will include Israel and the history of Zionism as a legitimate part of the region, something the schoolís president said has never before been done.
In deciding whether the United States should attack Iraq, rabbinic leaders from the different streams of Judaism are drawing upon Talmudic and biblical sources such as the Exodus story in which Moses and Aaron ultimately resort to "force" to win freedom for the Jews.
And while the rabbinic leadership appears largely behind President George W. Bush, the Jewish community as a whole is deeply divided. Except for the Orthodox, leaders of the other movements said there was no consensus among their congregants about whether to go to war now.