Major Clinton Foundation backer, a supporter of Jewish causes, trades with Iran


The largest single donor to the Clinton Foundation, a Ukrainian businessman who backs Jewish causes, reportedly also trades with Iran, according to Newsweek.

Victor Pinchuk, a Jewish pipeline magnate, has sold his pipelines to Iran, the magazine reported Tuesday.

The report comes as Hillary Clinton, a declared Democratic candidate for the presidency, faces increased scrutiny over whether she had conflicts of interest during her 2009-2013 stint as secretary of state. A focus of recent media queries has been on donors to charities founded and helmed by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

One document shows a $1.8 million sale in 2012 for “seamless hot-worked steel pipes for pipeline” to a city near the Caspian Sea. U.S. sanctions apply to entities that trade in sums above $1 million with Iran’s energy sector.

Interpipe, Pinchuk’s company, has not been sanctioned, although U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Calif., raised questions last year about its Iran dealings in a letter to the Treasury, Newsweek reported.

Pinchuk’s biography on his foundation’s website notes his backing for Ukrainian Jewish causes and an award he received for advancing Ukrainian-Jewish relations.

City of Hope: A match made in … Israel


When Joseph Mandel went to City of Hope in Duarte after his diagnosis with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in 2009, he remembers his doctor giving him a very clear message: “If we don’t find you a donor — like, in a year — you might not be here.”

“I was praying every day that they would just find somebody,” said Mandel, 63, of Woodland Hills. “When I put on tefillin, I would always say, “Please HaShem, help me; find somebody for me.”

Somebody turned out to be Nevo Segal, an Israeli who signed up for the international Jewish bone marrow donor registry in 2006 when he enlisted in the Israeli army. Mandel, the son of a Holocaust survivor, finally had a chance to meet his donor on May 10 as part of the 37th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion at City of Hope, a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Also meeting each other for the first time at the event were an 8-year-old boy and his 34-year-old British donor.  

For Segal, 25, who was raised in Ramat HaSharon but is currently studying in London, coming to Los Angeles to meet the man he saved in 2010 gave his role additional meaning.

“Until now, it was like a distant entity,” Segal said. “But when I heard that he survived, finally seeing him is great.”

After Mandel received the terrifying diagnosis in 2009, his family immediately began running bone marrow registration drives across Los Angeles at synagogues and churches, including at Stephen S. Wise Temple and the Chabad Jewish Student Center at USC. 

The five-year survival rate for AML is only about 25 percent, and Mandel has worked hard to make sure that he’s in that group. An avid outdoorsman, he minimized how much television he watched, exercised daily, lifted small weights and created a digital spreadsheet to keep track of the 35 medications he had to take while fighting leukemia. Although the risk of relapse is there — Mandel still has to regularly undergo blood tests — he has regained his strength and even recently went on a skiing trip with his family.

Because transplant recipients must be nearly identical matches with their donors, family members provide the best odds of being a match. But in Mandel’s case, there was no familial match. That meant that he had to rely on international bone marrow registries. The one that saved his life was Ezer Mizion, which has partnered with the Israeli army to collect genetic samples. 

Originally, the registry matched Mandel with Segal’s sister, Rachel, but Nevo was chosen later when it was discovered that he, too, was a perfect match and that he would be a better fit because he and Mandel were male.

Ann Mandel, who already had a husband and a daughter die of cancer, spoke about her son’s survival with a wide grin at the recent City of Hope event. She said that the day her family was notified that a match had been found, before anyone received a call, she had told her daughter that she felt good news was coming.

“I was very excited when he got the match,” she said.

Showing a group that gathered around her the strength that runs in the Mandel family, Ann Mandel rolled up her left sleeve to display the numbers tattooed on her arm from her imprisonment in the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Today, even after the successful transplant, the Mandels continue to host bone marrow registration drives. One of Mandel’s daughters, Falicia, runs drives in her hometown of Washington, D.C. Signing up for the registry merely requires a cheek swab, and donating marrow can be as simple as donating blood.

For Joseph Mandel, the Israel connection is not restricted to the man who saved his life. His wife, Rachel, was born in Israel. They had planned to travel to Israel for their 30th anniversary in 2010; when that was canceled because of Mandel’s illness, they went in 2011 instead.

“Israelis always have each other’s back, no matter what,” Mandel said at the event that brought him together with Segal. “He had my back.”

Donors struggling to defray the rising costs of Jewish camp


Spending the summer at Jewish overnight camp once was a spartan affair, often little more than a collection of ramshackle buildings scattered in the woods by a placid lake.

Those were the days.

“Today it's all about the toys,” said Rabbi Allan Smith, the former head of the Reform movement’s camp network and a 46-year veteran of the summer camp business. “You have a go-kart track, a climbing wall, a swing, a Burma bridge.

“When I was a kid, 90 percent of the camps were by a lake. Today if you don't have a pool you're a loser. Kids don't like lakes, they're dirty.”

Such amenities may make camps more appealing, but they don’t come cheap.

Parents can expect to shell out anywhere from $800 per week per child at one of the less expensive nonprofit camps to $2,000 per week at some of the pricier options. For families already struggling to cover the costs of Jewish education during the school year, sending a child to camp might be one expense too many.

In a bid to help defray the cost, the Foundation for Jewish Camp has awarded more than 43,000 grants to attend a nonprofit summer camp. The grants can be up to $1,000 per family .

“We believe summers at Jewish camp are an important component in one's Jewish identity,” said Jeremy Fingerman, the foundation’s CEO. “Camp teaches a joyful Judaism and becomes an important building block for a Jewish future. We believe families challenged economically should not be penalized.”

The high tuition at Jewish camps, which directors at the camps agree is considerably costlier than at their Christian counterparts, is cause for concern among those who fear that a potent identity-building opportunity is slipping away from middle-income families.

For Debra Hollander of Shaker Heights, Ohio, sending her children to Jewish camp is a top priority, despite the costs.

“Our three kids go to secular education schools, so for us Jewish camping became even more important,” she said. 

A 2011 study commissioned by the Foundation for Jewish Camp lends credence to Hollander's view of Jewish camps as important shapers of Jewish identity. According to the study, Jewish camp alumni are 30 percent more likely to donate to a Jewish charity; 37 percent more likely to light Sabbath candles; and 45 percent more likely to attend synagogue.

“The analysis indicates that [camps] bring, first of all, an increased inclination to practice Jewish behaviors in their lives, from Shabbat lighting candles to using Jewish websites and to appreciate the value of Jewish charity,” the study concluded. “Secondly, they bring an inclination to value and seek out the experience of Jewish community, whether in the immediate sense of joining other Jews in prayer or in the more abstract sense of identifying with fellow Jews in Israel.”

The FJC, which has a mission to increase the number of Jewish campers, is working to identify ways for camps to slash costs. In recent years it has coordinated the sharing of resources, encouraged the development of alternative revenue sources and helped camp directors improve their managerial skills through a program the organization likens to “an MBA in camping.”

Ultimately, the foundation wants to see camps profitable enough to be self-sustaining.

“Camps that are full are profitable and reinvest back in scholarships,” Fingerman said. “So there is a power in numbers, and we're working hard to get them full.”

Other organizations also have taken steps to make camp more affordable, particularly for less-affiliated families and first-time campers who might be less sold on the value of the camp experience. The Avi Chai and Zell foundations jointly made a $600,000 donation to Ramah to help the Conservative movement’s camp network attract first-timers.

“We're calling it the Ramah Open Door Program, where we're opening up to less Jewish-affiliated families,” said Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, Ramah’s national director.

Paul Reichenbach, the director of camp and Israel programs at the Union for Reform Judaism, said a significant number of children attending his movement's summer programs also receive scholarships.

While camp directors agree that the costs of Jewish overnight camps are high, they offer varying explanations as to the reasons. Some say it’s the relative abundance of staff — a ratio of one supervisor for every two campers, according to Cohen. Others point to the salaries of directors, which average about $125,000 per year at nonprofit camps, according to public tax filings. Directors at Jewish for-profits can make even more.

Perhaps the biggest factor driving costs, however, is the Jewish community's relative affluence and the resulting expectations.

“What [Jewish camps] provide may be higher with regard to facility, to program options, with regard to staff structure,” Reichenbach said. “And we are dealing with a community that has a certain expectation for quality.”

Despite a growing recognition of the importance of making tuition affordable, Reichenbach predicted costs would continue to appreciate at a rate of 2 percent to 5 percent each year.

“We live in the real world,” he said. “In the last few years our practices have reflected the rise in the cost-of-living index, the cost of energy, of food, of transportation. Right now we are doing the best we can to stay even.”

Doctor fighting leukemia seeks matching donor


A veteran physician diagnosed with leukemia is hoping to find a compatible bone marrow match within the Jewish community to help him beat back the life-threatening disease. Be The Match, the National Marrow Donor Registry, is holding a donor screening on Thursday at USC’s Rand Schrader Health and Research Center.

The identity of the doctor is being kept confidential. He is of Jewish descent and has been with Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for 20 years. So far no compatible matches have been found. Race and ethnicity are important factors in compatibility, and the physician will likely require a Jewish donor.

People willing to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells, who are generally healthy and between the ages of 18 and 60, are encouraged to register. The process is free and the majority of potential donors will have their cheek swabbed to determine compatibility. If selected, Be The Match will provide potential donors with additional information on the donating procedure, which the organization says is relatively painless. 

The screening will be held on June 14, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Rand Schrader Health and Research Center, 1300 N. Mission Road, Los Angeles. For more information or to register, call (626) 373-4000 or visit marrow.org.

Romney to meet with Jewish donors


Mitt Romney is meeting with about 30 major Jewish donors to his presidential campaign as part of a “constituents day.”

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and all-but-certain Republican nominee for president, will meet for about an hour with the donors in Boston on Thursday.

A donor who was invited told JTA that the purpose of the meeting would be an exchange of views.

There would be other meetings the same day with other constituent groups, the donor said, confirming reports of the meeting from a number of Jewish community officials.

Romney and President Obama have intensified outreach to Jewish voters and supporters in this presidential election year.

On Monday, the White House hosted some 70 Jewish leaders in a bid to reassure them that the Obama administration was determined to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.

Donation of Organs Has Support of Most Rabbis


It was a decision based on a widespread misunderstanding in the Jewish community, locally and nationally. A young boy not yet 10 years old lay brain dead in a Los Angeles hospital after suffering a severe head injury in an accident. The attending physician explained to the parents that their son was brain dead.

Then a representative of the organization that arranges organ donations in the Los Angeles area approached the boy’s parents and discussed the possibility of having their son’s organs donated; by doing so, they were told, the lives of as many as eight people might be saved.

The parents gave their consent. Shortly thereafter, their rabbi paid a visit to them in the hospital. When they told him about agreeing to have the son’s organs donated, he quickly responded:

“Oh, absolutely not. You can’t donate organs. You’re Jewish.”

At that, the parents rescinded their offer to donate.

Now, as the chief executive of the organ procurement organization serving most of Southern California, I was distressed to learn about the parents’ change of heart. Not only did it mean that several people on waiting lists for organs might die; it also deprived the parents of the comfort that would come from having their son leave a legacy of generosity.

But their withdrawal of consent didn’t surprise me. While most Jews and Jewish organizations support organ donation, there are still some Orthodox groups that ardently oppose it.

Although I’m a non-Jew, I have become aware of nivul hamet, the biblical prohibition against the needless mutilation of a cadaver. According to the Halachic Organ Donor Society (HODS), this prohibition is the reason why autopsies should not be performed on Jews.

I’m also aware of halanat hamet, a biblical prohibition against delaying burial of a body, and hana’at hamet, a prohibition — some say biblical; others say rabbinical — against anyone benefiting from a dead body, such as selling it for medical research.

But as the HODS points out, a basic tenet of Jewish law — pikuach nefesh — overrides both of these prohibitions and commandments because it says: “Save one life and it is as if you have saved the entire world.”

HODS, on its Web site, goes on to note that rabbis who object to organ donation do not do so on the basis that a body must be buried whole. Rather, says HODS, “Their objection makes sense if they believed that organ donation was taking critical organs from a live person, and that would, in effect, be killing the person.”

But it is very clear in law and medical practice around the world that brain death is, in fact, “death,” a determination that was confirmed just a few weeks ago by the President’s Council on Bioethics.

And the distinguished Orthodox rabbis who support organ donation through HODS strongly agree that brain death is death and disagree with those who contend it’s wrong to take organs from a person who is brain dead but whose heart is still beating. In the Winter 2008 issue of the national publication, Jewish Action, HODS says these rabbis “all agree that brain-stem death [the medical requirement for a brain death declaration] is halachic death, even though the heart is still beating [because it is supported by mechanical ventilation] — and [they] support organ donation.”

(The six rabbis quoted by HODS are Shaul Yisraeli z”l, former dayan, Chief Rabbinate of Israel; Dovid Shloosh, chief rabbi of Netanya; Avraham Shapira z”l, former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel; Shlomo Amar, Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel; Ovadya Yosef, former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel; and Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel.)

It is my fond hope that this discussion will clear up the misunderstandings harbored by some members of the Los Angeles Jewish community. At any given moment, there are some 100,000 people, many of them Jews, on those waiting lists for organs. A decision to donate by families who lose loved ones to brain death will enable many of those desperately needy people to live. 

Thomas D. Mone is chief executive officer of OneLegacy, the organ procurement organization serving Los Angeles County and six other Southern California counties. He is also past president of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs), which comprises OneLegacy and 57 other federally designated OPOs, and is a director of UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Free at last!


Last Sunday night (June 1) in an amphitheatre outside Jerusalem, I had a flash of insight into how to get disaffected Jews excited and involved in Jewish life: Make it free!

I was at something called the Birthright Israel Mega Event. Birthright is the eight-year-old program that has brought more than 170,000 Jewish young people from 53 countries to Israel for 10-day trips, all expenses paid. By most measures it has been a phenomenal success. Kids with no or limited connection to their heritage become deeply attached, or at least intrigued. They form lifelong bonds with peers from other states or other countries. They see the best of Israel having the best of times, and the impression is lasting and positive.

I rode a wave of that enthusiasm Sunday night in Latrun. “Birthright, ARE YOU READY TO PARTY??!!!!” screamed emcee Michael HarPaz to a packed amphitheatre of some 7,500 young people.

Strobe lights raked the stage, giant Star of David-shaped balloon sculptures floated in the breeze, and when the Birthrighters leapt up and screamed “YEAH!!” a series of synchronized fireworks shot out from behind the bandstand and dazzled in the warm, starry night.

Birthright, with an annual budget of $104 million, was created and initially funded by American Jewish mega-philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Michael and Judy Steinhardt. It now receives major support from the Israeli government, as well as from other private, mostly American Jewish donors. Many of them were seated in the first few rows of the mega-event — Bronfman, the Steinhardts, Lynn Shusterman and Gary and Karen Winnick, among others. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke, thanking the donors, the emcee thanked the donors, a video featured the donors, the donors took the stage and thanked one another — for at least 45 minutes, the event recalled that scene in “The King and I” where grateful Siamese come, on bended knee, to honor the benevolent Yul Brynner.

But so what — they deserve it. And it was in the midst of the thank-a-thon that my epiphany occurred: Why do this just for 20-somethings?

Clearly, the Bronfman/Steinhardt brainchild worked. And a great part of its success has been due to three factors.

First, it is professionally done. Israel, a country that can’t seem to organize a line at a bus stop, has managed to shepherd thousands of wild and crazy young people on a meticulously planned itinerary twice a year for 10 days without breaking a sweat.

Second, Birthright gives these Jews something they need at that point in their lives, even if they themselves don’t know it.

Finally, it’s free. A trip that costs thousands of dollars per participant is handed out like a money-stuffed attaché case on “Deal or No Deal.” It doesn’t matter if the participant is the child of a single mom working three low-wage jobs or the scion of a Cincinnati ladies’ support-hose magnate, your money’s no good here.

To summarize: Excellent + Relevant + Free = Huge Success.

It turns out the success of many other Jewish outreach initiatives boils down to this same formula. Think of the new minyans and congregations who don’t ask for a dime but offer a great spiritual experience.

Think of Chabad, arguably one of the most successful outreach organizations of any religion. Their services are free, and so is their schnaps.

Think of the scholarships that various communities and schools offer young people for study in Jewish institutions: There is never a lack of applicants.

Finally, think of this very newspaper and Web site, offered at no cost to anyone who takes the trouble to pick it up or click on it.

It turns out that uninspired, unattached, unaffiliated Jews are easy to lure into the fold: Just give them something good for free.

So, my suggestion is, extend the Birthright brand. You want to rock the Jewish world? Tell every 30-something with children their first year of Jewish school tuition is gratis. That’s right: one free year of Jewish education to every child — Call it Schoolright.

How about Campright — a free week of summer camp for every Jewish teen?

And of course, Prayright — one year’s free temple membership to any Jew, anywhere.

And while we’re at it, what’s wrong with Dateright — one year of free membership in the online Jewish dating service of your choice, for any Jew of any age.

I’ll stop for a moment to stress I’m not being arch or facetious. The common beef against Jewish institutions is that they don’t strive for excellence and that they cost too much. Birthright’s mega-philanthropists demanded business-world accountability and performance and they paid for it. In return, they have changed hundreds of thousands of hearts.

With the same level of competence and commitment, the same could be done for young parents in their 30s who never really considered Jewish schools, for parents in their 40s who are too stretched to pay summer camp bills, for singles in their 20s, 50s or 80s wary of the Jewish dating services but willing to try it — for free.

As the Birthright Mega Event in Latrun went on that evening, there were Israeli singers and dancers, drummers, a great band, a real helicopter that landed and disgorged a real Israeli soldier, much flag-waving, more fireworks and, after 10 p.m., an all-out dance jam that sent the screaming joyous masses into a sweaty, hormone-stoked Zionist frenzy until the early morning hours.

I saw the future of Jewish philanthropy at Latrun — the “Field of Dreams” approach to the Jewish future:

If you build it, they will come. Just make sure a mega-donor picks up the tab.

Bone marrow match still sought for rabbinical student — can you help?


The urgent search for a suitable bone marrow transplant donor for University of Judaism rabbinical student Joel Shickman, 37, stricken with AML, a form of leukemia in early February, continues.

Shickman’s family is encouraging people to register with the National Bone Marrow Program, especially those of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) descent who have a greater likelihood of providing a match.

Information regarding testing, which involves providing a small blood sample or swab of cheek cells, is available at www.marrow.org or by calling 800-627-7692.

In the Los Angeles area, bone marrow drives are scheduled for February 27 and March 3. In addition, testing is being done in Culver City on March 10 and in North Hills on March 11.

Shickman has just completed a second round of chemotherapy and doctors are keeping him comfortable while they watch for infections and other side effects. In a few weeks, a biopsy will be done to determine if the leukemia has gone into remission. Once that occurs, a bone marrow transport will be performed, pending the discovery of a suitable donor.

In the meantime, Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills, where Shickman teaches and leads services, has established a fund to help with healthcare and related expenses. Additionally, the University of Judaism community, under the direction of Rabbis Cheryl Peretz and Shawn Fields-Meyer, has initiated a Mishnah study in honor of Shickman’s health.

Shickman’s wife, Heather, writing on a Cedars-Sinai CarePages blog, has expressed thanks for the community’s involvement: “I cannot express the gratitude I feel for everyone who has been helping me and for everyone who is signed up to continue helping. Joel and I are awed by God’s miracles and blessings that we receive daily from each of you.”In addition, Shickman, who is married and the father of threesons, is regularly receiving blood and platelet transfusions. Those wishing tohelp can schedule an appointment at the Cedars-Sinai Blood Donor Facility to givea directed donation by calling 310-423-5326.Shomrei Torah Synagogue inWest Hills, where Shickman teaches and leads services, has established a fundto help with healthcare and related expenses. Additionally, the University ofJudaism community, under the direction of Rabbis Cheryl Peretz and ShawnFields-Meyer, has initiated a Mishnah study in honor of Shickman’s health.— Jane Ulman, Contributing WriterToread about Joel Shickman on the Cedars-Sinai CarePages blog “HereForJoel,”click: http://www.carepages.com/ServeCarePage?cpn=HereForJoel&seed=883673&ClusterNodeID=jb03&tlcx1=defaultInaddition, a webpage has been set up on www.lotsahelpinghands.comfor people to assist the Shickman family with childcare, meals, cleaningservices and other care.To participate in prayer and study groups, remotelyor on-site at University of Judaism, contact Rabbi Cheryl Peretz at cperetz@uj.edu or Rabbi ShawnFields-Meyer at shawn@fields-meyer.comTo donate to the Shickman Health Fund, pleasemake your checks payable to Shomrei Torah Synagogue and put Shickman HealthFund on the memo line. Mail to Shomrei Torah Synagogue, 7353 Valley Circle Blvd.,West Hills, CA 91304 (Attn: Shickman Health Fund).

Jewish causes must compete to get big charitable gifts


Roland Stanton’s $100 million gift to Yeshiva University is the largest ever to a U.S. Jewish institution. Yet as Stanton himself said, “There are plenty of people who could do it.”
 
Our research shows he’s right: Dozens of Jewish philanthropists are capable of equaling Stanton’s gift.
 
So why don’t they? It’s not that wealthy Jews have no reputation for making large gifts to Jewish causes: Julius Rosenwald in his day invented modern Jewish philanthropy; Charles and Edgar Bronfman have built and continue to sustain the core elements of Jewish life around the world.
 
The question is not one of capacity; the question is whether the Jewish community can imagine and prepare for gifts of that size and scope.
 
Jews are among America’s elite in philanthropy today. They endow professorships, fund museums, build hospitals and science labs and set up foundations. Clearly, wealthy American Jews have no problem parting with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars at a time. b
But why not more to Jewish causes? Stanton is proof that we can succeed when we ask for big figures — $100 million or even $1 billion. Other Jewish organizations can set their sights as high as Yeshiva University or even higher.
 
Our annual research of megagifts — gifts above $1 million — turns up at least 50 people who could match or exceed Stanton’s generosity. These typically are wealthy Jewish business leaders who give only relatively modest gifts to Jewish causes. It’s tempting to write these people off as uncommitted Jews, but it would be wrong.
 
If Jewish causes want to receive megagifts, they have to prove themselves worthy. They have to compete on equal ground with the secular hospitals, symphonies, museums and universities, all of which court and inspire Jewish donors.
 
Richard Joel came to lead Yeshiva University three years ago; his vision has energized the place and clearly energized Stanton, who is chairman of its board. Stanton could have directed his gift anywhere, but this month he chose Yeshiva University. It means that he believes in something.
 
That’s the character of today’s new philanthropists. They typically are unimpressed by the donor recognition events of typical charities — the fancy dinners and building-naming ceremonies. They’re more hands-on and active in their philanthropy.
 
They want to give away their wealth during their lifetimes. Many of them are entrepreneurial in background and temperament; Bill Gates is their living embodiment. They will disburse their money with the same attention they paid to the building of their businesses.
 
The Jewish communal world not only should prepare for this shift in the philanthropic world, it should rejoice. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of wealthy Jews who have yet to become fully engaged in Jewish giving. There is an enormous opportunity to engage these Jewish givers.
 
Look at Birthright Israel. Sending thousands of young Jewish adults to Israel for free is expensive, but it has support from some of North America’s biggest Jewish philanthropists. Look at Nefesh B’Nefesh, a project that is helping thousands of people to make aliyah. And look at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s efforts to feed the hungry and poor.
 
Big ideas attract big donors. These are examples of what good, provocative ideas can do, and we need more of them.
 
Of course, the Jewish nonprofit world — the professionals who staff the organizations — also must be prepared to become more entrepreneurial. Most often, good philanthropists work hand-in-hand with good professionals.
 
Look at it this way: Today’s philanthropists think like investors, because that’s how they got wealthy. They want their money to achieve a return; they want results.
 
We should applaud philanthropists who choose to search for cures for deadly diseases, feed the hungry or educate America’s youth. At the same time, we need to develop and support ambitious initiatives that ensure a secure Jewish community, help grow the Jewish people around the world and take care of the Jewish poor and elderly.
 
Philanthropists then would feel that the Jewish community is worth both a mighty financial investment and the invaluable donation of their personal involvement.
 

The Goalie of Oz


Oz Iluz loved to play goalie on his soccer team, but wasn’t too keen on math or the math exam that awaited him. So the 12-year-old didn’t really want to get on the small No. 14 bus in Jerusalem on that February morning in 2004.

A suicide bomber also boarded the bus, killing eight, including Oz’s friend. Oz suffered serious injuries and underwent surgery and therapy. He still has flashbacks about the bombing and panic attacks.

Thanks to an anonymous American donor and some friends, Oz and his family recently came to the United States.

Oz’s future is looking brighter. He still loves soccer , so he got a particular thrill attending and participating in a practice at a private home with 30 players from the Maccabiah soccer team arranged by coaches Kobi Goren and Philip Benditsen.

Then after Steve Sampson, coach of the L.A. Galaxy, learned of Oz’s story, he invited him to a team practice at the Home Depot Center in Carson, where Oz dressed in full soccer gear.

His recent bar mitzvah also was a milestone. His Torah reading from Genesis — “In the beginning” — couldn’t have been more appropriate for his rejuvenated outlook.

“I was engulfed in love,” Oz said.

What did he like most about his trip? Oz smiled again and spoke the name of the donor who brought him here.

For more information, call (310) 550-1160.

Getting Kids Into Charity Pays Off Big


Start talking to wealthy families about the benefits of getting kids involved in philanthropy, and they’ll tell you the biggest beneficiaries are the kids — and their families. They say even young children who get involved learn the value of money, the limits of resources and the need for tough decisions. It also helps sheltered youths meet and understand people who are less fortunate and provides a values-based structure for bringing families together year after year.

But getting kids involved with giving isn’t just for wealthy families. On the contrary, middle-class kids tend to have much more than they need — and can benefit from the values and insights they will get from charitable activities. It’s up to parents to get them going, and to figure out the best structure for the entire family’s charitable activities.

Either way, decisions about giving will have to take account of what you can afford, what you believe, and what you hope to accomplish, both for your family and for the beneficiaries of your largesse. The outcome is likely to be a stronger family, as well as a better world.

Perhaps the most basic question from clients is: At what age should kids be engaged in philanthropy? The overwhelming answer from those with experience boils down to one word: young.

“As soon as you hear them say the word ‘mine,’ it’s time,” said Claire Costello, director of Citigroup Private Bank’s philanthropic-advisory service in New York.

Teaching children the right lessons about giving is a job that only families can do. In part, that’s because most high schools and colleges do little to teach young people to handle money, said Susan Crites Price, author of “The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others” (Council on Foundations). It’s especially easy for affluent kids to avoid learning about delayed gratification, establishing a budget, or making hard spending choices. Unfortunately, Price laments, parents often fail to talk to their kids about wealth. An allowance can help, but the lessons of an allowance should include the lessons of philanthropy.

“I think that’s really critical,” she said.

If you give your kids an allowance, consider starting with the old three-jar rule: one for spending, one for saving and one for giving. For an incentive, parents might offer to match what the kids donate. As the children get older, they can be given a modest pot of money, as little as $100 each, and then be asked how they might want to make the world a better place. Do they care about libraries? Animals? People with no place to live? If there are several children, they can meet to decide what causes to support. And when a cause has been identified, they can be taken to visit the potential recipient. Parents who donate their time to a philanthropic effort should have their children accompany them. These occasions are an opportunity to teach kids not only about giving but also how they should treat people.

Parents who don’t get involved in philanthropy themselves can’t reasonably expect the kids to get involved, said Douglas Mellinger, vice chairman of Foundation Source, a provider of foundation services.

“You need to exemplify it,” he said.

And active parents need to communicate their involvement.

Said Price: “I’ve talked to families whose kids said, ‘I didn’t even know my parents were philanthropic until I read in the newspaper that the new hospital wing was being named for them.'”

One of the benefits of getting the kids involved is that family members start talking about the things they care about, which can help build trust and lower the level of any conflicts over money. Greg Kuhn, a family business consultant, said the biggest problem he sees is a lack of trust among family members, which inhibits succession planning if there is a business. Family giving, he said, is one way families can build trust concerning money. The younger generation gets valuable experience, and the older generation gets reassurance.

Clients can also build a sense of togetherness by weaving the act of charitable giving into family traditions, Kuhn said.

“Create any kind of family ritual around giving,” Kuhn said, suggesting holidays and birthdays as occasions for philanthropic activity.

Do the kids really need such an avalanche of presents, or would greater satisfaction come from a little giving, along with all that getting?

It doesn’t take much legal advice or other expertise to help young children get used to giving. But over the long run, even prosperous middle-class families may want a more formal structure for giving that suits their needs, their pocketbooks and their preferences. That’s where advisers have a natural part to play. The main choice is between establishing a family foundation or relying on a donor-advised fund. Each has benefits and costs. The good news is that the expenses and headaches associated with both choices have fallen in recent years, to the point where neither is any longer solely the province of the rich.

A family foundation puts clients in the driver’s seat. The family gets to control the foundation’s assets, set policy and name board members. Having family members on the board can deepen familial bonds, and the foundation, at least theoretically, can exist in perpetuity.

“As a family, it’s brought us much closer together,” affirmed Sara Barrow, whose foundation involves her father, stepmother, husband, brother and his wife. “We meet four times a year and talk all the time about this.”

Barrow, who is also program officer for Family Philanthropy Advisors, a foundation services firm, says she’s also raising her own children to be involved in philanthropy. Her example illustrates an important point made by Citigroup’s Costello: “Philanthropy is a platform for family unity.”

Get the cousins working together, said Diane B. Neimann, president of Family Philanthropy Advisors.

Teach them which questions to ask, see that they actually get out and visit charities, and hold everyone accountable.

“Make sure there are more requests than funds, so the kids learn to say no,” she added.

On a practical level, family foundations can reimburse trustees for travel expenses to attend meetings and can pay the trustees “reasonable” fees for their work, so, in a sense, the foundation can underwrite family gatherings to discuss doing good deeds. And donations to a foundation are tax-deductible.

“The family foundation is an extremely good vehicle when the family wants to be very much involved,” Neimann said.

But some of the advantages of a family foundation can also be disadvantages. It can take a lot of everyone’s time, for example. And all that control comes at a price; it can be expensive in terms of legal fees and other costs, including an excise tax on foundation earnings. Annual tax returns are required and become public records, which might matter to donors who prefer anonymity.

Costello said that traditionally $2 million was considered the minimum necessary to make a family foundation worthwhile, but she believes this rule of thumb is no longer the case.

Mellinger agreed: he said Foundation Source, for instance, is glad to service foundations with less than $250,000 in assets for a fee of $2,000 per year plus three-tenths of 1 percent of assets. That covers all compliance and paperwork plus a secure Web site allowing foundation officers and directors to conduct their business. At those rates, a foundation with $100,000 in assets would pay $2,300 a year. Foundation Source will set up the foundation, including legal work and government filing fees, for just $4,750, Mellinger said.

If you want simplicity or have less money, go for a donor-advised fund. Sometimes operated by a community foundation, such as the Toledo Community Foundation that Georgia Welles has used for some of her Granny funds, a donor-advised fund can be established without a large initial outlay. Families typically can open a donor-advised account with just $10,000, but many community foundations will let donors start with less, making these vehicles ideal for the young. Also, most community foundations will give the money to pretty much any charity your client wants, as long as the Internal Revenue Service recognizes it as a legitimate charitable organization.

With no board of directors or tax filings, donor-advised funds save headaches. And as public charities, donor-advised funds offer attractive tax advantages. Cash gifts to such a fund are deductible up to 50 percent of adjusted gross income, whereas gifts of securities are deductible up to 30 percent. For a family foundation, the maximum allowable deductions are just 30 percent of adjusted gross income for cash donations and 20 percent for securities. Another advantage: The investment income of a donor-advised fund is free of the excise tax that foundations must pay on their earnings, noted Jon Skillman, president of the more than $2.7 billion Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund.

Skillman’s outfit, which claims more than 32,000 donors and the most assets of any donor-advised fund, strives to offer a level of convenience that parallels what Foundation Source offers to foundations. Though clients need $10,000 to open an account, outbound donations don’t have to be big; Fidelity allows donations to any IRS-approved charity in amounts of $250 or more. If you use its Web site (www.charitablegift.org), Fidelity will even save you the trouble of writing a check or licking a stamp. The site also offers help in choosing a charity, including detailed third-party reports on thousands of them.

Client funds on deposit at Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund are invested in pools of Fidelity mutual funds (there are four such pools to choose from, varying in aggressiveness), and Skillman says total expenses, including administrative and fund fees, range from 1.42 percent to 1.84 percent annually. For an account worth $10,000, that translates to perhaps $150 per year — and that covers money management in addition to administrative services.

Donor-advised funds also have their disadvantages. Although Fidelity offers unlimited succession, many community foundations will allow only one or two generations to succeed the donor, after which donor influence is discontinued. Foundations make it easier to carry on a family legacy generation after generation. A foundation gives a family a sense of ownership earned through personal involvement. It forces families to lay out their values and goals and to face one another on the board. With a donor-advised fund, it is easier for family members to “phone it in.” And for most families, phoning it in is precisely what’s not wanted. That’s why so many experts recommend giving kids some money of their own to allocate.

Mellinger tells of a Brownie Girl Scout troop in Denver that raised a little more than $100 and, with some adult guidance, embarked on a serious discussion of how to give it away. Some of the girls advocated an organization devoted to animal welfare, and soon the Brownies were debating whether it was more important to help animals or people.

As David Welles Jr. said of his own family, “The real fun is to watch how engaged our kids get.”

Skillman says children can be amazingly creative in putting charitable funds to use: “We had a young donor, 11 years old, who awarded a grant to a Braille printing company so blind kids could enjoy ‘Harry Potter.'”

Still, getting — and keeping — adult children involved can be a challenge if the older generation fails to take account of the children’s values, which often differ from their parents’.

Neimann observed that the older givers tend to focus on museums, colleges and other institutions, often in the community where the family has roots. Young adults, she said, are more mobile and more international in outlook. Their interests run more toward environmental causes, civil rights and community development.

“The hard thing is to reconcile these differences,” she said.

Parents have to allow room for the philanthropic passions of the young to differ from their own. The good news, she added, is that older clients seem more aware than they used to be that they can’t run a foundation forever.

Said Neimann: “People no longer want to control as much from the grave.”

That can open the door to some creative solutions. For example, if the older folks want to fund a museum and the young ones care about education, perhaps all can agree to fund the museum’s arts-education program. Or money can be divided up so there is some for the founder’s passions and a portion for those of the new generation. Or there can be a separate fund for the young to give as they wish. “You have to get the generations talking to each other,” Neimann said. “I think they find that a rich experience.”

Daniel Akst is a novelist and essayist living in New York’s Hudson Valley. He contributes to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe, among other publications.


Getting Kids Into Giving

• Do get them started young.

• Do model philanthropic behavior. Make it part of family activities and celebrations.

• Do give teenagers money that they can decide how to donate.

• Do volunteer and take the kids along.

• Do encourage the kids’ school to make teaching service and giving a priority.

• Do choose an appropriate vehicle, whether a coffee can for loose change, a donor-advised fund, or a full-blown family foundation.

• Don’t make your children’s giving decisions for them. But insist they do the research to support their own choices.

• Don’t expect teenagers to act charitably when you never have. Be an example.

Community Briefs


Ball to Help Fund Bet Tzedek Efforts to Provide Legal Aid

At a car wash workers’ hearing before a labor commissioner last week, Bet Tzedek Legal Services client Raul Arellano described working 10-hour days soaking wet, for well under minimum wage. He recounted conditions in which colleagues were hit by cars, endured dead animals in the workplace and harsh chemicals without protection (a colleague’s skin had sloughed off).

Bet Tzedek resolved problems with the car wash owners involved, but since receiving a barrage of calls from employees like Arellano, it has dramatically increased outreach to inform such workers of their rights under a new (but under-reinforced) law.

The service is typical of 31-year-old Bet Tzedek, which helps Los Angeles’ poor, disabled and elderly. It operates on a $5 million budget, in part raised by the annual Justice Ball, which this year will be held July 9. The proceeds — which totaled $400,000 last year — will help fund programs across the board, along with new projects, Executive Director Mitch Kamin said.

Since Terri Schiavo died March 31, Bet Tzedek has expanded end-of-life planning workshops to the underserved Latino population, attorney Janet Morris said.

And when complaints persisted about individual slumlords, the organization spurred a program to wrest a building’s control from repeat offenders by petitioning for a receiver or financial overseer for the property.

The effort will help tenants such as those in a Los Angeles building, where “there were open sewage lines, no hot water and bathrooms where the mold was so bad, it was hard to breathe, even with a T-shirt over your mouth,” attorney Elissa Barrett said.

Bet Tzedek successfully obtained a receiver for the building, and plans to increase such efforts. “This will help address the acute affordable housing crisis in L.A., where workers often can afford only slum housing,” Kamin said.

For information about the Justice Ball, visit www.thejusticeball.org. — Naomi Pfefferman, Arts & Entertainment Editor

A Kidney for Chana

Five-year-old Chana Bogatz now possesses a donated adult kidney, courtesy of Michelle Reichert of Minneapolis.

Chana touched hearts in Los Angeles last November, when Chai Lifeline, an organization that helps families with sick children, launched an Internet and advertising campaign to help find a kidney donor for her. Chana was born in Israel with malfunctioning kidneys, and her family moved to the United States to help her get better medical care and to try and save her life.

Failing to find a donor in Los Angeles, the Bogatzes relocated to Minneapolis, where the local CBS affiliate aired a segment about Chana needing a kidney. Reichert, 34-year-old social worker, saw the program and immediately went to the hospital to get tested. She was a perfect match, and on May 27 — Lag B’Omer on the Hebrew calendar — Reichert underwent an operation to give Chana one of her kidneys.

Chana’s body accepted the kidney, and the child is embracing her dialysis-free life.

“She tasted chocolate for the first time, and she really liked it,” said Yehudis Bogatz, Chana’s mother.

Previously, Chana was fed through a feeding tube inserted through her nose, and could take only a tablespoon of milk at a time. — Gaby Friedman, Contributing Writer

U.S. Reluctant Superpower, Krauthammer Says

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer spoke to about 900 people at Stephen S. Wise Temple on June 23, and said that the United States is now the world’s sole superpower atop an influence gap with less powerful nations.

“The gap is larger today than it has even been at least since the fall of the Roman empire,” Krauthammer said in his lecture, “In Defense of American Empire.”

The Boston psychiatrist-turned-Washington pundit also was in Los Angeles for his niece’s June 26 wedding at the synagogue.

Krauthammer outlined his belief that the United States has become a reluctant superpower that remains philosophically distinct from prior superpowers. Comparing the U.S. occupation of Iraq to Britain’s conquest of India and ancient Rome’s subjugation of Europe, he said those now-dead empires “were not looking for an exit strategy. Americans, we like it here. We are not an empire. We are a commercial culture.”

Among the lecture’s sponsors were Stephen S. Wise members attorney Bruce Ramer, real estate executive Newton Becker, CPA and Republican fundraiser Bruce Bialosky and filmmaker Lionel Chetwynd.

Speaking about Israel, Krauthammer’s audience meter rose notably when he praised President Bush for shutting off all White House contact with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

“You make an agreement with Yasser Arafat, you know precisely that it will not be honored,” he said.

When asked if he believed Jews should embrace conservative Christians’ strong backing of Israel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning, center-right pundit condemned those whom he said would “basically spit in the face of people who support our cause. I think it as an act of near suicide to reject that kind of whole-hearted support of millions of Americans.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

 

Donor Pool Swim


Few days have haunted me like April 15, 2002. It was the day Time magazine screamed out from its cover that women cannot have it all.

Like a slap to the face, the writer reported that the biological odds are against getting pregnant after 35 and that stories of women conceiving into their 40s are anomalies, and nothing more.

I was approaching 33 and panicked. My biggest fear was becoming one of those women who troll the Bay Area’s Jewish singles scene, frantically searching for a husband. So I visited my doctor.

Dr. Silvia Yuen strode into her Sutter Street examination room.

"How are you today?" she asked.

"OK," I began, "but I read that Time magazine article."

"Uh-oh."

"Yeah, so what I’d like to do is freeze some of my eggs."

I wanted insurance that my biological clock wouldn’t blur my dating judgment. Putting eggs on layaway would take off the pressure, I told her.

She offered me a fertility clinic brochure, but cautioned that while the freezing and thawing out of sperm had been perfected, the science wasn’t yet there for women and their eggs. Frozen embryos were the best bet, she said, but they’d require committing to a sperm — a step I wasn’t ready to take.

But the discussion got me thinking. How is a woman supposed to choose the right man when he’s reduced to a Petri dish?

My good friend, I’ll call her Beth, had to find out. After trying to get pregnant for more than a year, she and her husband learned that he’s shooting blanks. They mulled over their options and turned to California Cryobank (CCB), the mothership of sperm banks. Around for more than 25 years, CCB is spreading its seeds in all 50 states and at least 30 countries worldwide.

Agreeing on a donor was trying, Beth admitted: "We thought we’d found the perfect one, but when we pulled up his baby photo, he looked like a frog!"

Then there were those her husband rejected.

"I found one who was great, but he said he was too tall," she said. "I’m thinking about the best donor to help us have a child, and he views the sperm as competition."

Beth waved me over to her computer, selected a file named "Little Swimmers," and introduced me to their chosen sperm: Donor 5378.

I asked how she honed in on 5378, and she navigated to the donor catalog. Up top it read, "Click here to view our list of donors with at least one Jewish ancestor."

There were only 13 choices, and 5378 was off the menu, sold out.

Later, I called CCB. I wanted to know about the demand for Jewish sperm, why there’d been such a run on 5378.

"People choose on all different criteria," said Marla Eby, vice president of marketing. "It’s almost the same as what they encounter when looking for a mate."

High demand for Jewish donors, she said, prompted CCB to create the special search field Beth had used.

But how Jewish can a sperm be? I appreciate wanting a compatible gene pool, but it’s not like the little swimmer comes equipped with Torah knowledge or understanding of Jewish mothers and good deli. If halacha says a baby born to a Jewish woman is Jewish, does the donor’s background matter?

For Beth and her husband, it did.

"The spirituality and values of the Jewish culture is so much of who I am and who [he] is," she said. "Knowing that the sperm was Jewish … made us feel like we were connected."

This approach is common for Reform Jews like Beth, said Rabbi Elliot Dorff, chair of bioethics at the University of Judaism. But in the Orthodox community, he said, the opposite is true.

Based on a 1950s decision by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, non-Jewish donors are recommended to prevent incest and to protect against Jewish genetic diseases.

Beth felt safe knowing sperm at CCB is genetically screened.

I caught up with Dr. Cappy Rothmann, the co-founder and medical director of CCB, to see what he made of my sperm-shopping query.

"I don’t understand. I just try to help the best I can."

He asked about my interest in this topic, and I admitted my age. Before saying goodbye, he offered, "Next time you’re in L.A., come see me."

I hung up the phone, hoping I’d never have to.

Jessica Ravitz is working on her master’s degree in journalism at UC
Berkeley. Her e-mail address is jessica_ravitz@yahoo.com.

Center Construction Moves Ahead Despite Shortfall


Though Irvine’s Samueli Jewish Campus is $2 million short of $20 million required to finish a community building, the project’s supporters are moving ahead to avoid the potential costs of delay.

Permits for the 123,000-square-foot building adjacent to Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School were issued in March.

"We’re moving ahead as originally scheduled," said Ralph Stern, of Tustin, who is leading fundraising. In a communitywide appeal in May 2002, he promised a fiscally conservative stance: construction would start when financial goals were met.

"If it weren’t for potentially inflationary pressure, we wouldn’t have started," he said last month.

Waiting for the till to fill would incur extra costs from disbanding the building’s construction team, an expected hike in steel prices and bid escalation due to a predicted surge of postwar construction, Stern said. Known costs alone amounted to $500,000, said Irving M. Chase, of Irvine, a member of the capital campaign committee.

"This is one way to protect the bids we had," Stern said.

Adequate funds have been pledged for the $6.5 million first phase, which includes grading, utilities, a foundation and steel-support structure. Stern hopes to raise the remainder by July, as the initial construction nears completion.

An anonymous donor and Broadcom Corp. co-founder Henry Samueli provided two-thirds of the project’s total $60 million cost. Jewish agencies now in Costa Mesa anticipate relocating next spring.

A Touch of Tomchei


It’s 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday, and the modest storefront at 3531¼2 N. La Brea Ave. is teeming with people. The shelves that were stocked with bottles of Rokeach grape juice, jars of Tzali’s gefilte fish and cans of California chunk light tuna only a half hour ago, are now nearly empty.

But what looks like the pre-Pesach rush at any number of local Los Angeles grocery stores is actually a typical Thursday night at the warehouse of Tomchei Shabbos — a nonprofit organization that provides needy Jewish families throughout the Greater Los Angeles area with kosher food to enrich their Shabbat and help sustain them throughout the week.

Translating to "Supporter of the Sabbath," Tomchei Shabbos was started in 1977 by three Orthodox rabbis who recognized a need within the Los Angeles Jewish community. Under the direction of Rabbi Yona Landau, and sustained predominately by private donations, the organization has grown out of its original garage and into two locations (a garage in the Valley and a storefront in Los Angeles), serving more than 200 families weekly. But the real phenomenon behind Tomchei Shabbos is the dedication of its volunteers — from uniformed schoolgirls and yeshiva boys to well-dressed businessmen on their way home from work — who gather here every Thursday night to pack and discreetly deliver boxes of food to recipients, and whose vested interest in the organization far exceeds simply making out a check.

"It involves volunteers from all walks of life," said Michelle Lerer, who manages a medical office by day, but who can usually be found at the warehouse on Thursday nights distributing route sheets, giving box-packing lessons to new volunteers or directing parking in the lot behind the storefront. "It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not religious. It’s the one charity that I know of in this city where everything goes."

Lerer came to the organization approximately 15 years ago upon a friend’s recommendation. While packing food one Thursday night, a man that she was working with asked her to lock up for him. She did, and she never gave back the keys. Today, Lerer, together with bond trader Steve Berger, manages the Tomchei Shabbos L.A. storefront. She takes care of all food ordering for the organization, while Berger coordinates delivery routes.

"We go on the principle that they need everything," said Lerer, adding that she always makes sure that the boxes are bountiful, with plenty of extra food to carry families throughout the week. During the holidays, boxes include all necessary items and ingredients. Passover boxes this year include everything from ingredients for making charoset and old-fashioned horseradish to aluminum pans and dishwashing soap.

In the interest of preserving the dignity of recipient families, the majority of Tomchei Shabbos transactions remain anonymous. The organization uses a coding system, and volunteers never meet most of the people whom they deliver to. Some packages are covertly placed in front of recipient residences and others are dropped off to third parties.

"It’s embarrassing for people to have to ask for help," Lerer said.

Tomchei Shabbos realizes that need is often relative. Therefore, there is no set criteria to qualify for assistance. Applicants are often referred by friends, rabbis and Jewish Family Service and are only required to find a sponsor (usually a rabbi) within the community to confirm their need.

While most Tomchei Shabbos recipients are below the poverty level and receive some form of government assistance, the causes for their predicaments greatly vary: an Argentine immigrant family whose life savings was lost, a couple whose monthly income is far less than the expenses involved in raising five children, an elderly person barely surviving off of social security, a family where the main breadwinner was struck by illness — all are examples of Tomchei Shabbos recipients.

Rivka (not her real name), a mother of two young children, has been a Tomchei Shabbos recipient since she and her husband divorced nine months ago. Finding herself in debt as a result of court fees and very little child support, Rivka went from living in a five-bedroom house to renting a guest house in someone’s backyard. With two children and very little work experience, the money that was going out far exceeded what was coming in.

"I don’t have a college degree," she said. "And truthfully, I believe in being a mother more than anything else. To go and work for $7 an hour when I have to pay the babysitter $7 an hour — it doesn’t sound very appealing to me."

Like Rivka, the problems that Tomchei Shabbos recipients encounter are complex. While Tomchei Shabbos helps get them on their feet, many also require further assistance.

"If someone doesn’t have money to buy food, there are many other things they don’t have money for," said Landau, an insurance broker who simultaneously and voluntarily runs the organization. With this vision in mind, Landau has expanded Tomchei Shabbos into something more inclusive in recent years. Under the umbrella organization of Touch of Kindness, further programs have evolved. Some such programs include Jewish Job Link, a group of businesspeople who help people find jobs; The Clothes Conscious, a group of women who contact Jewish manufacturers, buy clothing at wholesale prices and offer them for free to Touch of Kindness recipients; and Masbia, a group that gathers leftovers from various schools and synagogues. Like Tomchei Shabbos, each group is run by volunteers.

In addition to the three existing programs, Landau often subsidizes other things when necessary, such as rent, day care, tuition and car payments.

For the volunteers of the organization, the mitzvah of Tomchei Shabbos and Touch of Kindness’ programs is a two-way street.

"Here the children see charity really being done," said Cathy Lawrence, coordinator and only employee of Touch of Kindness. "At home, mom might talk about tzedakah, but it’s different for them to be taking part in the actual physical doing…. They go to a home and they see other little children awaiting the Tomchei Shabbos box or an old woman whose face lights up when they come."

Lawrence came to Tomchei Shabbos after trading in a long-time career in the entertainment industry.

"The movie business," Lawrence said, "is about putting out a lot of energy to get a reward that is mostly monetary. It’s a very material world, and I needed a break from it."

Although the career change meant a significant change in lifestyle, Lawrence said that the feeling she gets from working for Tomchei Shabbos is worth it.

"It’s a trade-off for being around people that are givers and appreciate," she said. "People who do good and put the needs of the community above themselves."

For more information on Tomchei Shabbos call (323) 931-0224.

World Briefs


LAX Shooter Had Terror Ties?

The man who killed two people in the July 4 attack at Los Angeles International Airport told U.S. officials in the mid-1990s that Egyptian officials had accused him of being affiliated with terrorists. As a result of the disclosure made this week by U.S. officials regarding Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered the agency to investigate any ties between asylum seekers and terrorist groups. Meanwhile, Egyptian police and Hadayet’s wife denied that Hadayet had been investigated for terrorist links. After killing the two and injuring several more people at the airport’s El Al ticket counter, Hadayet was killed by an El Al security guard.

Choreographer Wins

A choreographer who has created dance prayer rituals for the Reconstructionist movement won a MacArthur “genius” award. Liz Lerman was one of 24 MacArthur Fellows named Tuesday for their excellence in intellectual, cultural and scientific endeavors. Like the other winners, Lerman, 54, who lives in suburban Washington, D.C., will receive $500,000 over five years.

House Passes Palestinian Sanctions

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill instructing the president to issue sanctions if the Palestinian Authority violates its peace commitments. The State Department Authorization Act, passed Wednesday by a voice vote, includes language originally contained in the Middle East Peace Commitments Act. The bill calls on the president to report every six months whether Palestinian leaders have complied with agreements they signed with the United States and Israel and, if not, to impose sanctions on them. However, the president can choose to waive the sanctions for national security reasons. The authorization act also would require the American Consulate in Jerusalem to be placed under the supervision of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Jerusalem residents as Israelis. The bill awaits Senate approval.

Terror Victim Saves Palestinian
Girl

A Palestinian girl was recovering after she received a kidney from a Jewish victim of a Palestinian suicide bombing. Seven-year-old Yasmin Abu Ramila, a resident of Jerusalem, had been undergoing kidney dialysis for nearly two years while waiting for a transplant. The family of Jonathan Jesner, a 19-year-old yeshiva student from Scotland, volunteered to donate his organs after he died last Friday, a day after a suicide bombing aboard a Tel Aviv bus.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Bundles of Joy


The stork has been awfully busy lately.

It seems as though everyone I know is having a baby. A couple I haven’t heard from in months sent a postcard with a picture of what I thought was a Sharpei puppy — it turns out the little boy’s name is Jesse. I didn’t even know they were expecting.

Of course, in the bargain, I’ve lost all my friends. They’re no fun any more. They’re very busy doing not very much. They can’t go anywhere, especially if they’ve got more than one child. When they do get out of the house it’s all they can talk about and, honestly, there isn’t that much to say about a little baby. You see these people with the 1,000-yard stare at Blockbuster, returning the overdue videos they haven’t had time to watch, despite the fact they’ve been home every night for months.

I’ve been to visit a lot of these babies. I don’t understand how The Gap can be in a sales slump with all the baby gifts I’m buying. If you’re not one of the parents, there’s not much for you to do. You look the kid over, rain praise on its incredible good looks, hold it long enough until it emits some vile fluid or hurts itself, and then you hand it back to its owner to mop up. It’s like a slow, sloppy game of “hot potato.”

A visit to a newborn should take an hour at most, by the end of which time you will have determined if the child looks more like the mother, the father, Winston Churchill or Lyndon Johnson. That important business concluded, you’re free to leave these people behind and do whatever you want. Going to “see the baby” is a lot like going to see a convicted felon.

I have a single friend named Gina, who is determined to have a child in the next year. Gina has also decided that she doesn’t need a man’s help in getting the job done. Not much, anyway. She’s come to the conclusion that, at age 35 with no “significant other” in her life, she’ll get the baby thing out of her system so she can get on with her life. She doesn’t want the pressure of having to rope some guy, get married and then hurry up to have a child. She reasons that men run from the scent of desperation, and maybe she’s right. You might argue that two parents are better than one, but where’s poppa when you need him? She’s got a gay donor-daddy and an eminent fertility doctor — and they’ll do just as well in a pinch.

I’ve heard stories from the old days about young women getting pregnant and leaving town, going to stay with a relative until the baby was born. There was a time when being a single mother was a shonda. Not now. At some point, having the fellow around is basically a nuisance. Meanwhile, Gina’s family has rallied around her with unbridled support, beaming grandparents-to-be waiting for the fatherless child.

So here’s the rub: I want a child. My biological daddy clock is happily ticking away with no sign of wearing out. The warranty is still good for another several years, but suddenly the snooze alarm is broken. I’m not exactly hanging around schoolyards getting all misty, but the idea is getting more and more appealing to me. I’d prefer one that already walks and talks, but I understand they don’t come that way direct from the factory.

Now I want diapers and runny noses and little, bitty clothes and brightly colored toys and big books by Dr. Seuss and one of those walker things in the kitchen. I want to get woken up at ungodly hours and struggle with a baby seat, and I want to call a pediatrician “just to be safe.” I also want my friends back. None of their behavior will seem nearly as odd when I’m in the same boat with them.

Incredibly, it seems, I’m going to have to get a woman involved somewhere in the process. I feel like Frank Sinatra in my best pressed tweeds: All I really need is the girl.

J.D. Smith is expecting @ www.lifesentence.net.

Personal Touch


Michal Amir prefers "a Jewish conversation."

Entering her second year as co-chair of a donor support program called Face-to-Face, Amir believes the phrase is a more accurate description of the Super Sunday tradition aimed at strengthening ties between big donors ($1,000 or more) and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

This year, Amir and freshman co-chair Renee Katz will oversee a group of about 20 interviewers who will conduct the one-on-one sessions on the second floor of the Federation’s 6505 Wilshire building. Working with them will be Scott Minkow, assistant director of the Federation’s Metropolitan and Western regions. Last year, he supervised the Sawtelle location’s successful Super Sunday drive.

The interviewers meet in person with the donors, answer questions about the Federation, its agencies, its staff, fundraising and allocation practices — whatever is on their minds. The by-appointment-only Jewish conversations last anywhere from five minutes to an hour. Interviewers will conduct as many as 20 personal discussions throughout Super Sunday.

"For me, Face-to-Face is the best part," said Minkow, 29, who first conducted the Valley Alliance version two years ago while completing his masters program at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.

Minkow anticipates that this year’s Face-to-Face will be very successful thanks to Amir and Katz, both successful 30-something professionals. Amir is a doctor specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, while Katz is a clinical psychologist with a Beverly Hills practice. But both are equally accomplished on the community level.

Amir is the daughter of Holocaust survivors from the Hungarian part of Czechoslovakia and a self-described "goal-oriented Virgo doctor." She was raised in Beverly Hills, where she still resides, and attended Cornell and Columbia universities. An active Federation participant, Amir is a staff volunteer for Jewish Family Service and a member of the Federation’s Medical Division Cabinet and its executive committee. On the national level, she is a member of the Young Leadership National Cabinet, composed of adults in their 30’s and 40’s.

"My favorite part of Face-to-Face," Amir said, "is that you actually get to make the connections with people. Everybody likes to feel that they are a member of the community. In a big city like L.A. it’s so easy to feel lost. I get to meet people I wouldn’t otherwise get to know. I love to meet strangers and develop a bond with them. It helps to bond me closer to the community."

Katz had attended a few Federation functions in the past, but nothing really sparked her fancy until she attended the United Jewish Communities’ Washington 11 Conference. That drew her in.

"I met some of the most incredible people who inspired me," Katz recalled. "Now I feel like I can’t do enough."

Katz now spends several hours each week volunteering at Beit T’Shuvah, an experience she confirms is "a completely different feeling doing it as a volunteer as opposed to professionally."

Katz, a Brentwood resident who grew up in Beverlywood, studied at Scripps in Claremont, got her master’s at Harvard and completed her studies at California Graduate Institute. In her nearly two years of active Federation involvement, Katz, chair of the Ben-Gurion Society for young adults, has attracted many to the outreach organization’s fold. Her positive experiences already include a recent Federation mission to Lithuania.

"It actually keeps getting better," Katz said of her Federation participation. "I feel a sense of purpose and connection."

Katz finds a good fit between her professional training and Face-to-Face.

"There’s such an emphasis on money instead of an emotional or spiritual connection," Katz told The Journal. "I pride myself on being vulnerable and open. What’s key as a psychologist is to listen to them, acknowledge their feelings, make them feel validated."

For his part, Minkow finds his face-to-face interaction with Katz and Amir among Super Sunday’s greatest rewards. "They are the future of this Federation," he said.

AJ Congress’ Surgery


Everyone knows that California is earthquake country, but somehow you’re never fully prepared. Take the Los Angeles chapter of the American Jewish Congress. It has been dislocated by two separate quakes recently. It survived the first one. The second was devastating.

The first was the deadly Northridge quake of January 1994. It destabilized the building that housed AJCongress’ regional offices, eventually forcing the chapter into new quarters last year. It could have been worse. The West Coast outpost ended up a neighbor of Aaron Spelling Productions and E! Entertainment Television. In Los Angeles, that’s considered a step up.

The second quake was the Big One: the naming of New Jersey businessman Jack Rosen last May as American Jewish Congress’ national president. Rosen came in, vowing bold steps to strengthen the cash-starved agency. He’s recruited new donors and hired a consultant to streamline the organization.

But his boldest step yet came last week: shutting down the Los Angeles region.

The shutdown followed an ultimatum to the Los Angeles chapter to improve local fund raising or else. In response, the chapter’s board resigned en masse. [More on this story on page 13.] They’re planning to regroup as an independent organization, to be called the Progressive Jewish Alliance.

On the surface, this is just another clash between a New York-based organization and alienated West Coast members. National AJCongress insists that the only way to save the ailing civil-rights agency is radical surgery. The Californians reply that saving a national organization by abandoning America’s second-largest Jewish community — and closing one of its most active, visible chapters — is loopy. If that’s surgery, it’s the kind physicians perform on themselves: Not advisable.

There are bigger fights just below the surface. This is partly the crisis of a venerable Jewish defense agency that’s struggling to fit in a world where Jews hardly need defending. Partly it’s a struggle over the role of money in Jewish life.

Money is the key. Last fall, Rosen and Executive Director Phil Baum decided to make AJCongress’ 13 regions start paying their own way. “Every other organization requires its regions to raise money to help maintain the national office,” says Baum. But in AJCongress, national subsidizes the regions. “That’s the reason the national office has been so constricted,” Baum says.

Constricted isn’t the word for it. AJCongress is struggling to survive. Its annual budget has been stagnant for a decade at around $6 million. Its national program staff is down to a half-dozen: two staff lawyers, a Washington representative, two publicists and CEO Baum.

Insiders say the problem is that the Jewish community no longer supports the old multi-issue defense agency. Don’t tell the rival American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League. The AJC’s staff of 150 runs a broad program of research, international diplomacy and intergroup coalition building. The ADL’s staff of 270 monitors extremists, teaches tolerance in public schools and trains police to fight terrorists. Support has followed: The AJC’s annual budget is now about $20 million, the ADL’s more than $40 million.

In the past, AJCongress made up for its poverty with energy and moxie. Its lawyers led American Jewry’s post-World War II battle for equal rights and religious freedom. During the 1980s, led by Henry Siegman, it was the loudest American Jewish critic of Israel’s Likud government. Loved or reviled, it was always on the map.

Since Siegman retired in 1993, critics say, the organization has been rudderless. Divided and broke, it was unable to recruit a new chief executive. Instead, the job went to staff veteran Baum, who first came aboard as a lawyer in 1949. He’s turned sharply right on Israel, without presenting a new message.

Californians say their fund raising, which used to cover their $250,000 regional budget, has dropped by half since Siegman left. “People no longer see the American Jewish Congress as standing for important principles or being a catalyst for social change,” says former regional president Doug Mirell. “With a national albatross around your neck, it’s very difficult to get people motivated to go and fund-raise.”

But that’s only half the problem. The other half is the chapter’s culture of baby-boom activism. “We attract a lot of young lawyers who don’t have a lot of money and don’t tend to rub shoulders with people who have a lot of money,” says Steven Kaplan, another former regional president. “And, frankly, we’re not interested in fund raising. We enjoy doing the policy work.”

Their policy work is impressive. Just recently, they led the coalition that passed California’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, played a role in police reform and spearheaded the controversial Los Angeles Jewish Commission on Sweatshops. Their Jewish feminist center wins kudos for programs such as its annual women’s seder and an acclaimed project on urban violence. “They’ve played an important role of conscience for as long as I can remember,” says Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

To Baum, that record makes their poverty all the more unacceptable. “If the programs they have are so valuable,” he says, “there should be people there who are prepared to pay for them.” He says the national office intends to launch a new Los Angeles chapter soon with people who appreciate the importance of fund raising.

Aggravating the tension is the fact that it’s Los Angeles, home to the world’s largest concentration of rich Jewish liberals. Hollywood Jews are a financial mainstay of liberal causes, from the ACLU to the Democratic Party. But little of that money goes to the American Jewish Congress, the leading voice of liberalism in the Jewish community itself. This reportedly infuriates Baum and Rosen. Hence the abrupt dismissal of the chapter.

This may be the greatest irony of all. The American Jewish Congress was created as the poor Jew’s alternative to elitist groups such as the American Jewish Committee. Through the years, it’s stuck to its guns, usually choosing principle over pragmatism.

That philosophy helped to torpedo merger talks between the two AJCs that went nearly 20 years before collapsing in 1992. The American Jewish Committee required a $5,000 “leadership gift” as a prerequisite to joining the board. AJCongress rejected it as undemocratic and elitist. The AJC said there was no other way to keep a Jewish organization solvent.

The American Jewish Committee may be right. Maybe you can’t run a Jewish organization in today’s America without handing the reins to the wealthy. Experience and logic point in that direction.

If there is another way, it’s probably the volunteer activist path that was being forged by the baby boomer lawyers of the American Jewish Congress’ Los Angeles chapter. Whether it works in the long run, though, we may never know.


J.J. Goldberg writes a weekly column for The Jewish Journal.

Feeling the Heat


The ad, which pictures a small child with a worried expression, is one way the UJF is trying to tackle the unfolding “Who is a Jew?” debate in Israel and to limit its impact among American donors to the UJF.

According to Bill Bernstein, an associate executive vice president who oversees the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles’ UJF campaign, donor discontent hasn’t affected local giving. The $30 million plus raised so far this year is on par with the 1996 campaign. But that doesn’t prevent Bernstein and other Federation staff and lay people from worrying about whether that support will remain strong.

Of particular concern is a bill currently making its way through the Israeli Knesset. The measure says that any person converted by a Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbi in the Diaspora could become an Israeli citizen but isn’t considered Jewish in religious matters, such as marriage, burial, divorce and conversion.

“Through all the years that American Jews have supported Israel, there has never been a question about anybody’s Judaism,” Bernstein said. “Now, for the first time, this is becoming a reality — and a problem.”

Todd Morgan, the 1997 UJF general chair, said that the distress signals tend to come from the older donors — those who have intermarried children and grandchildren whose spouses have been converted by Reform or Conservative rabbis.

“These are people who have given money to Israel forever,” said Morgan. “They have a grandchild who wouldn’t qualify as a Jew there. And they say, ‘How can they tell me my grandchildren aren’t Jews? They go to synagogue. And Israel says they can’t be married or buried there.'”



“You can’t expect

American philanthropists who

have given their emotional

heart and soul

and financial resources

to Israel not to feel

offended in some way

by this bill.” Bill Bernstein


Although, for many, the feelings are heartfelt and based on knowledge, for others, the conversion bill may provide an excuse not to give, some Federation leaders believe.

“Some say, ‘If I’m not Jewish, I don’t have to give to the Federation,'” said Herb Gelfand, Federation president. “They say it jokingly, and they know they’re Jewish. But we hear a lot about it.”

While UJF totals remain unaffected, fund-raisers are beginning to hear from contributors who say that they’re considering not giving, reducing their contributions, or not making good on pledges that have already been made. Many are loyal supporters of Israel, “who feel that this is the only way to express their frustration, anger and absolute concern for what Israel might become,” Bernstein said. “You can’t expect American philan-thropists who have given their emotional heart and soul and financial resources to Israel not to feel offended in some way by this bill.”

But, Bernstein stressed, few are aware of how little of their contribution actually goes to support Orthodox-affiliated groups in Israel. In fact, only one-half cent of every dollar contributed to the UJF here goes to such groups. Most money distributed through the Jewish Agency go to humanitarian and service programs, such as aliyah, resettlement and education.

In Israel, as in Los Angeles — where about 60 percent of UJF contributions are spent — much of the spending is on programs that are based not on ideology, politics or religion but on human needs, said Federation Executive Vice President John Fishel. “We have to continuously remind our donors of that.”

Even so, there are those who simply want to send a message with their money. Several donors believe that by withholding their contributions to humanitarian causes in Israel, the government will then have to ante up the difference and will then have less to spend on Orthodox programs.

The problem is much more one of perception than of reality, Bernstein said. “Unfortunately, the Orthodox community has been targeted,” he said. “Many who are Orthodox here and in Israel don’t support this legislation.”

The Federation, so far, has resisted allowing any but the largest donors to earmark part of their contribution to specific local programs. But just this week, the United Israel Appeal, the U.S. governing board of the Jewish Agency, approved allocating an additional $1 million to the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel this year and another $5 million in 1998. The money, some of which comes from UJF dollars, was welcomed by the Federation’s Bernstein as supporting the movement toward greater pluralism in Israel.