web analytics
April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Agudath Israel of America’

Jewish Groups Praise New EEOC Workplace Guidelines

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Jewish groups across the religious spectrum praised Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on accommodating religious attire in the workplace.

The guidelines published Thursday are for “employers with at least 15 employees (including private sector, state, and local government employers), as well as employment agencies, unions, and federal government agencies.”

These employers “must make exceptions to their usual rules or preferences to permit applicants and employees to follow religiously-mandated dress and grooming practices unless it would pose an undue hardship to the operation of an employer’s business.”

Rabbi Abba Cohen, director of Agudath Israel of America’s Washington office, said the increasing number of religious Jews in the workplace made the guidelines welcome.

“Our nation’s commitment to equal opportunity has enabled more Jews to enter the workplace,” he said in statement. “This has, in turn, resulted in a more diverse Jewish labor force — one which requires new types of accommodations for various religious practices.”

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, said that although incidents of religious discrimination in the workplace have declined in recent years, it was important to deliver clear guidelines.

“We must continue to foster open and accepting environments in all aspects of public life,” Schonfeld wrote in an email to JTA. ”With numerous countries around the world cracking down on forms of religious expression, we are grateful to the EEOC for their continued promotion of the freedoms that we enjoy under U.S. law.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said the guide would facilitate better workplace relations.

“To have this all in one place so employers know where to go and workers know where to go, to have the balance of the needs of the employer and the needs of the employee, will lead to comity in the workplace,” he said in an interview.

In a statement, the Orthodox Union noted that the guidelines prohibited “back-rooming,” or keeping staff out of sight from clientele because of their garb. The guidelines’ hypothetical scenarios include several involving Jewish observance.

In one, Jon, a temp worker who wears tzit-tzit and a yarmulke, is made to work away from the front desk by a client of his agency.

“Because notions about customer preference (real or perceived) do not establish undue hardship, the client must make an exception to its dress code to let Jon wear his religious garb during front desk duty as a religious accommodation,” the guidelines say.

Agudah Presses U.S. Military on Kosher Field Meals

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Agudath Israel of America has asked the Pentagon to restore kosher field meals and charged that the Defense Logistics Agency had solicited a bid in April for kosher and halal “meals ready to eat,” but had recast the solicitation last month to include only halal, which adhere to Muslim religious precepts.

“As things stand now, no kosher MREs are being produced and, as previous stock has become depleted, there is essentially nothing currently available for Jewish members of the Armed Forces that meet their religious dietary needs,” Abba Cohen, Agudah’s Washington director, said in a release. “How long this state of affairs will continue is unknown.”

Cohen said he wrote Maj. Gen. Donald Rutherford, the top military chaplain, expressing his “deep concern” but also confidence “that the department will find a way to address the dietary needs of Jewish service personnel” given that the Pentagon is showing “greater interest in broadening religious accommodation” in the military.

The Pentagon announced last month that U.S. troops may accommodate religious beliefs in their garb or grooming, including kippas and beards for Jewish servicemen, as long as it does not frustrate their mission.

The U.S. military introduced kosher MREs in 1999, a result of complaints from Jewish troops during the 1991 Gulf War that such meals were not available.

Congress Budgets $13 Million for Nonprofits Security

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Congress budgeted $13 million for a nonprofit security assistance program that mostly aids Jewish institutions.

The money was allocated in the $1.1 trillion budget passed this week by both houses of Congress.

The program, which has existed since the mid-2000s, has so far disbursed $138 million through the Department of Homeland Security, not counting the $13 million in new funding. Of that amount, $110 million has gone to Jewish institutions seeking funding for add-ons like barriers and security cameras.

The Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America have led advocacy efforts for the funding.

“Since September 11, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks,” William Daroff, the JFNA’s Washington director, said in a statement. “Until nonprofit institutions are secure from such threats, The Jewish Federations will continue to strongly support the Nonprofit Security Grant Program.”

In a separate statement, the Orthodox Union praised lawmakers who champion the funding, chief among them Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).

The Reform movement generally abjures the funding because of concerns about church-state separation.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill passed this week breaks a years-long budget impasse between the Republican-majority U.S. House of Representatives and the Democratic-majority Senate. It also includes $3.1 billion in assistance for Israel.

Jewish Schools Advocacy Bringing Hundreds of Millions in Public Funds

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

By Uriel Heilman, JTA

Each year, when Frank Halper is faced with the state tax bill for his accounting business in Providence, R.I., he has a choice.

He can write a check for the amount owed by his company or, as part of a state tax credit program, he can send a check to a foundation that provides tuition scholarships to students at Providence’s two Jewish day schools. His tax bill will be credited for 90 percent of the contribution.

For the last five years or so, his firm has opted for the latter.

“We’re in favor of supporting these schools,” Halper said. “We feel Jewish education is the future of the Jewish people.”

Tax credit programs are among the growing number of ways that private Jewish day schools and yeshivas nationwide are collecting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars annually. The money is helping to defray operating costs, provide teacher training, assist students with tuition bills and enhance educational offerings.

A decade ago, few Jewish schools were aggressive about pursuing federal and state funding. But as day school tuition rates have climbed, outpacing inflation and the ability of recession-weary parents to pay, schools have become much more effective not only at accessing government money but in lobbying state government for more.

“The financial crisis of 2008 had a huge effect on tuition and affordability — I think that was really the game changer,” said Darcy Hirsh, director of day school advocacy at UJA-Federation of New York, which in October 2011 became the first federation in the country to create a position for day school advocacy. “Families that were able to afford day school are no longer able, and schools’ financial aid has grown tremendously over the last five years.”

Cincinnati Hebrew Day School students attending a rally for school choice in front of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, April 10, 2013.

Cincinnati Hebrew Day School students attending a rally for school choice in front of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, April 10, 2013. Photo: Agudath Israel

The Haredi Agudath Israel of America has long taken the lead in lobbying for government aid for Jewish schools. Two years ago it was joined by the Orthodox Union, which began hiring political directors in a half-dozen states to organize Jewish schools and lobby legislators.

In New York, the state with the largest day school population, Agudath Israel and the OU have been joined in their lobbying efforts by an unusual coalition that includes UJA, the Sephardic Community Federation, the Jewish Education Project and Catholic groups.

While media attention has focused on the alleged abuse of government funding programs by Jewish schools, suspect allocations represent just a trickle of the government funding flowing to Jewish schools.

The methods used by private schools to get government money differ from state to state and range from the complex to the Byzantine.

In Rhode Island, the tuition scholarship tax credit, which is available to families with incomes of less than the federal poverty level, is capped at $1 million statewide and open only to corporate donors. The credit is calculated at 75 percent for a single year and 90 percent if they donate for two, up to a maximum of $100,000 annually. The statewide cap is usually reached annually on July 1, the first day applications may be submitted.

In Florida, a similar program last year was capped at $229 million.

In New York, a lobbying effort two years ago resulted in legislation extending an exemption from a transportation payroll tax of 0.34 percent to private and religious schools — a seemingly small change, but one that saved an estimated $8 million per year.

“Figuring out how to do better at this is going to be one of the big keys to the whole tuition crisis,” said Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, principal of SAR Academy, a large Jewish day school in Riverdale, NY, where tuition and fees can run as high as $30,800 a year. “We’re looking to provide a quality education, Jewish and secular, and I think the solution will have to be to increase revenues. Government funding is going to need to be a major piece.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/jewish-schools-advocacy-bringing-hundreds-of-millions-in-public-funds/2013/07/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: