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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Federation’

Goldman Sachs Chief: Rabbi, Jewish Groups Helped Me Succeed

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein recalled the role of his rabbi and Jewish organizations in helping him realize he could succeed despite growing up in a working-class neighborhood.

“The only person I knew who put on a suit everyday was our rabbi,” Blankfein told a crowd of 1,700 fellow Wall Street insiders and guests Monday night at a $26 million record-breaking fundraising dinner for UJA-Federation of New York.

“Growing up [in public housing in the East New York section of Brooklyn], every family I knew struggled. I thought every Jewish father either drove a cab or worked in the post office. I didn’t know anyone whose father was a doctor, lawyer or other professional,” the Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO said upon receiving the Gustave L. Levy Award at the event at the Hilton New York.

“Today many of you may not know a Jewish family that is struggling, you don’t see them, but there are. There are thousands of families not more than three miles away from here.”

Blankfein credited his rabbi and his involvement in federation-funded afterschool programs and summer camp for helping him “to think about the world beyond East New York,” ultimately leading to his decision to attend college.

D.C. Theater Retools Controversial Play about Israeli Arabs

Friday, October 11th, 2013

A Washington Jewish theater funded in part by the local Jewish federation scaled back its plans to produce a controversial play concerning how Israeli Arabs were treated when Israel became a state.

Rather than showing the entire play, Theater J instead will present “The Admission” as a workshop in which viewers will be invited to give their feedback. A spokesman for the Washington DC Jewish Community Center, which houses Theater J, said the play, by Israeli playwright Motti Lerner, will be used as a platform for discussion on how difficult subjects are treated.

Washington D.C. JCC officials told the Forward that outside pressure had nothing to do with the decision, which they said was made in part because there was no available Israeli theater to co-produce the play. In the past, Israeli plays mounted at Theater J have involved an Israeli company.

A small group known as COPMA — Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art — in an advertisement in the Washington Jewish Week and an email campaign on several Jewish listservs urged potential donors not to give to either Theater J or the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Robert Samet, COPMA’s chairman, said his group was not against showing the play and does not believe in censorship. However, he said his group was against any Jewish federation funds being used to put on the play.

Samet said the play was “essentially an effort to put into theater some of the people who rewrite the history of Israel.”

In an interview with the Forward following the announcement of the scaled-back version, Samet said he would still push to have the play canceled.

Federation officials had defended staging the play, citing free speech and as a pushback against the problems they said could ensue from the precedent of acceding to threats from a small outside group.

“The Admission” is a fictionalization of a controversy over whether Israeli troops carried out a massacre in Tantura, a small village on the coast, during the 1948-49 Israel Independence War.

Leftist ‘Pro-Israel’ Anti-Zionists Hurting Federations Donations

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

American Jews are debating where Jewish federations in their communities draw the line on funding programs associated with varying opinions about Israel, especially activities by “Zionists” who are nothing but anti-Zionists.

Boston

In the Boston area, a recent test case for the local Jewish federation—Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP)—revolves around its relationship with Leonard Fein, the founder of organizations including the National Coalition for Jewish Literacy, Moment Magazine, and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

In an Aug. 24 column for the Forward, Fein called for a boycott of the Israeli city of Ariel, which is located beyond the 1949 Temporary Armistice Lines that existed until the Six-Day War in 1967.

“Specifically, I believe American Jews visiting Israel should stay away from [Ariel], treat it as an offense against peace,” Fein wrote.

He had been a guest speaker for CJP and has a long-term relationship with that federation’s leadership groups. Asked if that relationship would change due to Fein’s stance on Ariel, CJP Executive Director Barry Shrage said it would not, and regarding whether CJP is willing to continue to invite Fein as a speaker, Shrage said, “Sure.”

“Certainly an argument about settlements, and how to protest settlements and how to support settlements, is part of the daily life of the Jewish community that has a healthy ongoing debate about important issues,” Shrage told JNS.org.

While Shrage believes Fein’s call for a boycott of Ariel was “a very poor tactic,” he stressed that Fein is “a highly respected member of our community.”

“We’d be so much poorer a community if we drive out people like Leonard Fein,” Shrage said. “The future of the community is about binding people together.”

But Charles Jacobs, head of the Boston-based advocacy group Americans for Peace and Tolerance, believes CJP crosses a red line by continuing to work with Fein. Jacobs called the policy of welcoming a “big tent” of organizations and individuals with varying views on Israel a “slippery slope.”

“The CJP-certified Leonard Fein is now one more slip down the slope,” Jacobs told JNS.org. “Leonard Fein, who in the midst of Middle East madness, where Arabs are murdering and gassing and torturing each other—and each other’s wives and children, from Cairo to Damascus to Baghdad—Fein blames Israelis for the lack of peace in the region.

“Beholden to major donors, many of them on the left, it seems that some federations have become disconnected from the larger Jewish community. So if CJP does not excommunicate Fein—if it has no red lines—it will show just how disconnected it has become.”

Shrage said CJP does have red lines. Advocating for the destruction of Israel or harming Israel are “stances that place people outside the community,” but Fein is “a Zionist” and working with him does not cross a line, despite his stance on Ariel, according to Shrage.

“The line here is whether you are anti-Zionist, anti-Israel,” he said.

Fein told JNS.org that while he called for a boycott of Ariel because its location 10 miles beyond the 1949 armistice line presents “a very distinctive problem” and “essentially destroys the possibility of a two-state solution,” he opposes the broader Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

“I think each potential target of that kind of approach of boycott, divestment and sanctions needs to be treated on its own terms, on its own merits, or lack of merits,” Fein said, explaining that he disagrees with a movement that issues boycott calls “with a broad brush,” like the BDS movement does.

New York

Shrage called hosting Fein a “far cry” from hosting BDS activist Alice Walker, author of “The Color Purple, who appeared at New York’s 92nd Street Y in May, a story that The Jewish Press exposed here.

The Y also scheduled an event this spring with Roger Waters, the anti-Israel Pink Floyd band member, which was ultimately canceled after The Jewish Press revealed it here.

On Sept. 12, JCC Watch and Americans for a Safe Israel partnered on a protest outside the UJA-Federation of New York building that called for Jews to stop donating to the federation, due to a lack of guidelines preventing federation funding of programming that gives a platform to anti-Israel voices like Walker and Waters. The Y receives $900,000 annually from the federation.

“We have a pattern of forces within the UJA-Federation diverting charitable dollars to further political purposes, and these purposes are anti-Israel,” Richard Allen, head of JCC Watch, told JNS.org.

When a UJA donor and volunteer told Allen at the protest that the funding in question is “only a small part” of the federation’s budget, Allen said he replied, “Even if it’s one penny, it’s wrong, and it makes the whole organization basically treif.”

The UJA-Federation declined to comment for a JNS.org article on the Sept. 12 protest and did not return a comment request for this article.

Washington, DC

Like JCC Watch, Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art (COPMA) is calling for a halt to donations to its local federation, citing the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s funding of the Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s Theater J.

COPMA was formed in 2009 as a response to Theater J’s work on “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza,” a series of short plays in which parents repeat anti-Israel narratives while mulling how to speak to children about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One actor advises a parent not to tell a child that “Arabs used to sleep in her bedroom.”

Robert G. Samet, COPMA’s chairman, said his group does not intend to impede artistic freedom, but rather specifically opposes the federation’s support of Theater J.

“It’s just, don’t do it on our nickel,” Samet told JNS.org. “Don’t do it on [federation] contributors’ support, it’s not appropriate. It’s a fringe view that’s being supported by mainstream contributors.”

Four days after The Jewish Press exposed Jewish funding for Theater J here, Robert Levi, chairman of the board of the National Council of Young Israel, wrote an an Aug. 26 letter to the DC Federation and joined COPMA’s call for the discontinuation of federation support for Theater J, due to the theater group’s planned performance of Motti Lerner’s “The Admission” from March 20-April 27, 2014.

“As you may be aware, [‘The Admission’] reflects a neo-anti-Israeli perspective, which is contrary to the mission of the Federation,” Levi wrote. “The climatic scene of play implies a fictitious 1948 massacre conducted by a colonel in the Israeli defense brigade. You may not be aware that many of Mr. Lerner’s dramas are not performed in Israel due to their harmful message.”

Last week, the federation responded to COPMA with an “open letter to our community.”

“Love of Israel and openness to a diverse array of thought are compatible goals,” the federation’s letter stated.

Ari Roth, artistic director of Theater J, told JNS.org that “The Admission” is all based on “actual research done by three historians,” rather than implying the “fictitious 1948 massacre” that Young Israel’s Levi described in his letter. “The Admission” was also featured in an April 2013 workshop that was underwritten by the Israeli Consulate of New York, which Roth called an Israeli “hechsher” on the play.

COPMA does not acknowledge Theater J’s slate of more than 35 plays and workshops relating to Israel over the last 16 years, said Roth, who among other plays the group has performed cited “Dai” (“Enough”), which details the experiences of 14 different Israelis in the moments before a suicide bombing.

Theater J also never actually produced “Seven Jewish Children,” explained Roth. Instead, the group held a “critical dissection” of the play, featuring readings of “Seven Jewish Children” and response plays, as well as a talk to start the event that included “what troubled me about the play,” Roth said.

The DC federation, in an April 2011 statement, said it would not fund “any organization that encourages boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel in pursuit of goals to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish State.” Theater J “stands squarely” against the BDS movement, Roth told JNS.org.

“We are all about bringing Israeli art over here, engaging with Israel,” he said. “We are a leading importer of Israeli cultural talent to Washington.”

In its letter on COPMA last week, the federation said it was not its job to meddle in the “autonomous decision making” of its partner agencies, or to “single out a few programs from the thousands we support that may make some uneasy.”

Samet, chairman of COPMA, told JNS.org that it was “only with great reluctance that we went to a mass email campaign urging people to suspend or terminate contributions until such time as [the] federation does something about [the Theater J issue].” But the federation ultimately crossed COPMA’s red line.

“We didn’t want to take it that far, but they pretty much forced our hand by ignoring us, and ignoring the issue,” he said.

Jewish Institutions Awarded $9 million in Federal Security Grants

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Approximately 90 percent of the $10 million in funding for non-profit organizations announced by the Department of Homeland Security to help nonprofit organizations protect themselves from terrorism went to Jewish institutions this year.

The total amount of grants, announced Aug. 29, is slightly up from last year’s $9.7 million, while the total Preparedness Grant Program budget for this year amounts to $968 million.

“The Department of Homeland Security has demonstrated a great commitment to protecting at-risk communities,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America’s board of trustees.

The Jewish Federations of North America and the Orthodox Union were instrumental in making sure the Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant program was continued.

Since Congress established the program in 2005, a total of $138 million has been distributed across the country to help at-risk nonprofits acquire and install physical security enhancements and undertake preparedness training, the JFNA announced.

“Since September 11, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks,” said William C. Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of Jewish Federations.

UJA-Federation NY Campaign Nets 6 Percent Rise to $145.3 million

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

The UJA-Federation of New York raised $145.3 million in its annual campaign that ended June 30,  exceeding last year’s total by $8.6 million.

Adding bequests and endowments, $6.7 million raised for superstorm Sandy relief, and capital and special gifts, the federation brought in a total of $206.5 million.

“This has been an extraordinary year of both challenge and opportunity, with Hurricane Sandy hitting us at home and the attacks on Israel,” said John Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation. “These campaign results reflect the recognition of the essential role of UJA-Federation in caring for New Yorkers in need, supporting the people of Israel, and strengthening Jewish communities around the world.”

UJA helps funds 100 beneficiary agencies, as well as dozens of other grantees and grass-roots organizations in New York and Israel, as well as more than 70 countries.

Butter Lovers, Rejoice – Hebrew U Study Shows High-Fat Could Lower Weight

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Lovers of butter, rejoice – eating a high-fat diet on a schedule may keep you svelter than eating a low-fat diet at random intervals, according to a researcher at Hebrew University.

Professor Oren Froy of the Agriculture, Food, and Environment department posits that regularly scheduling meals regulates metabolism and reduces weight gain.

The results were published in the academic journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Mice fed a high-fat diet on a fixed schedule for 18 weeks gained less weight than counterparts fed either a low-fat diet on a fixed schedule, a low-fat diet on no schedule, and a high-fat diet on no schedule.

Additionally, the high-fat eaters seemed to metabolize what they ate better, rather than storing the fat in their bodies.

According to Froy, the findings reveal the importance of timing food consumption as a way of preventing obesity.

US Jewish Federations to Drop ‘Zionism’ from their Global Plans

Friday, July 27th, 2012

See an update at the end of this report.

In what has been described as “a closeted and cowardly move,” the Jewish Federations of North America last week rejected the inclusion of the term “Zionism” in a major system-wide planning document.

The JFNA’s Global Planning Table is the mechanism by which JFNA and Federation leadership come together to determine the allocation of dollars for new Federation initiatives outside of the United States.  The Report issued by this collaborative is considered a building block of the allocations decision making process, and it was the call to include Zionism in the recent report that was rejected.  The Global Planning Table page of the JFNA website does not include either the term Zionism or Israel.

Richard Wexler, former chair of the Chicago Federation and national chairman of the United Jewish Appeal in the late ’90′s, revealed yesterday, July 26, that JFNA’s leaders have rejected the inclusion of the term “Zionism” in their Global Planning Table Work Group Report  because the term “is too controversial.”

In 2008 Wexler stepped down from his position as chairman of the United Israel Appeal, a subsidiary of what later became the JFNA.  He also was one of the architects of the merger of United Jewish Communities, the umbrella group for the local Federations.  Even while in a leadership position, however,  Wexler was critical of the management culture, writing in his blog “UJ Thee and Me” that “criticism is not merely ignored, it is not tolerated.”

Some fear the JFNA move will be seen as a watered-down acceptance of the notion that Zionism is to blame for the problems in the Middle East, or at the very least an effort to hold at arms length the idea that Jews are entitled to a national homeland.

“I am beyond disappointed and upset,” Wexler told The Jewish Press, about the decision to hide from the idea of Zionism.  He said, “that is at the heart of all we do.”

Members of the GPT work group who were present at the meeting and frustrated by the outcome told Wexler about the decision.

One of those most closely involved in this decision making effort was Joanne Moore, senior vice president for JFNA’s Global Planning Department.  Moore oversees the Global Planning Table, JFNA’s research department and the General Assembly.

Prior to joining JFNA, Moore, a former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, spent more than a dozen years working on USAID-funded public health projects in Africa, Haiti and Asia.  She also was a consultant to the Institute of Reproductive Health.   In addition, Moore had been a lay leader in various capacities for JFNA.  Moore did not respond to a request for comment.

The rejection of Zionism by JFNA leaders was described by Wexler in his blogpost and in comments to The Jewish Press, as a continuing trend by Federations to distance themselves from Israel.

Several years ago, Federations changed the name of their non-domestic efforts, which had been called their Israel and Overseas Department, to the Global Operations Department.  In response to pushback from local leaders, the name was changed once again to Global Operations: Israel and Overseas.

Further evidence of this trend, according to Wexler, is a drift from the close connections the JFNA had with its actual overseas partners, the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Acknowledging that there might be better, more efficient ways for the Federations to encourage North American Jewry with Israel than through the Joint or JAFI, he was adamant that this latest decision — the excision of the term Zionism from their planning documents — was morally disastrous.

“What we cannot permit is an implicit denial of the centrality of Israel in our lives and a denial [of] the absolute responsibility we as Diaspora Jewish leaders have to engage more Jews here with Israel.”

Although repeated efforts to reach JFNA leaders were unsuccessful, it is possible that the decision may be reversed before the report is finalized.  Richard Wexler, for one, hopes this is what attention to this decision may bring.  Otherwise it is simply a “terrible commentary on what Federations are today.”

Update:

After this story was published, JFNA officials issued a statement sent to Federation executives and others, by Kathy Manning, Chair, and Jerry Silverman, President/CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America:

On July 27, 2012, Lori Lowenthal Marcus wrote accusing the Jewish Federations of North America of moving away from its support of Israel and Zionism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ongoing support of Israel is fundamental to Federations and to JFNA. Our system sends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to Israel to support the vulnerable, to assist in education programs, to help new immigrants, to assist in job and skills development, and to provide concrete expressions of solidarity during Israel’s darkest hours. We connect American Jews to Israel and Israelis by supporting birthright and other youth and young adult programs, community and national missions to Israel, and innovative partnerships between our communities and Israeli communities. We are proud to be holding our 2013 General Assembly in Israel, where we will have an opportunity to highlight the important work we do with our partners in Israel.”

The decision to remove the term “Zionism” in an important global planning document because that term is “too controversial,” which is the point of the article, is not denied in their statement. Repeated efforts were made to contact Federation and JFNA officials before the story ran.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/jewish-news/us-jewish-federations-to-drop-zionism-from-their-global-plans/2012/07/27/

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