Typhoon Haiyan: How you can help


In response to the devastation wreaked on the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan, which hit land on Nov. 8, killing thousands and obliterating whole towns and villages, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has set up the Philippines Typhoon Relief Fund.

The solicitation for donations went live on Monday, Nov. 11, on the Federation website, jewishla.org, according to Mitch Hamerman, Federation’s senior vice president of communications and marketing.

The L.A. Federation’s response is only one example of local Jewry attempting to reach out to Filipinos suffering in the aftermath of the largest storm surge in modern history, despite the absence of a sizable Jewish population on the Southeast Asian island country. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has already sent emergency teams, and the Israeli nonprofit IsraAID has dispatched a team of humanitarian workers. The L.A. Federation is working with both organizations.

“We know our community wants to take action in this time of crisis,” a statement issued by Federation said.

On Monday, members of Congregation B’nai David-Judea in Pico-Robertson received an email from Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky asking for donations to IsraAID.

“We're all aware of the horrible death and destruction that occurred in the Philippines over the weekend. There is a special connection, as you may know between the Philippines and the State of Israel,” Kanefsky wrote, emphasizing that members of the Filipino community often are the healthcare workers who care for elderly Israelis.

Israel’s reaction to the storm has been robust, with the Israel Defense Forces and Magen David Adom both promising aid. Israeli consul general in Los Angeles David Siegel estimated that “several hundred” people, representing the Israeli government and Israeli non-government organizations, may join the relief effort in the Philippines.

“We’re very happy to do this, and I think you’ll see Israel put not insignificant resources into this, both in aid and in the representatives that we send,” he said. As a leader in trauma medicine, Israel is expert at responding in the immediate aftermath of mass casualty events. And helping another country in need fulfills the obligation of tikkun olam, Siegel said.

“Whenever there is a humanitarian disaster, we’re poised to be the first, if not one of the first, to provide immediate aid,” Siegel said.

Additionally, The United Kingdom’s World Jewish Relief organization has said it plans to offer help, and a fund launched by American Jewish World Service is providing support to local Filipino-run groups on the ground in the Philippines.

Oklahoma tornado: How you can help


Jewish groups are joining the effort to help those displaced by the tornado in suburban Oklahoma City.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, announced Tuesday that his organization will collect donations and distribute them to the American Red Cross and others on the ground in Oklahoma.

“We are numb with grief, and yet inspired by the heroic resilience of the people of Oklahoma,” Jacobs said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by this horrific tragedy.

“As other needs arise, perhaps including volunteers to assist with the clean-up and rebuilding, we stand ready to help in any way possible.”

The Jewish Federations of North America also has started a fund to aid the relief effort of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City.

[Know of other Jewish relief efforts? Please comment below with information]

“Our hearts go out to all those who were in the path of this disaster and who are grieving the loss of their loved ones,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the JFNA Board of Trustees. “This was a terrible tragedy. The destruction of an elementary school filled with students and teachers was especially painful.”

B’nai B’rith International has opened its Flood, Tornado and Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund.

Meanwhile, the Chabad Community Center of Southern Oklahoma has opened its building as a shelter and is collecting supplies for those displaced by the tornado that hit Moore.

$20,000 fund to advance Jewish innovation in Australia


A $20,000 fund to advance Jewish innovation in Australia was launched by the ROI Community, a global network of young Jewish innovators, and Australian Jewish Funders.

The Dave Grants—named for Dave Burnett, a young Australian Jewish leader and ROI Community member who died in an accident in 2008—were announced last week at the Australian Gathering For Young Jewish Leaders in Melbourne. More than 50 of Australia’s future Jewish leaders convened to discuss ways to engage more Jews in Jewish activity.

The grants will support collaborative projects born out of connections made at the gathering that have a fresh and dynamic approach to Jewish community-building.

Burnett, an alumnus of Birthright Israel, led the Australasian Union of Jewish Students and was an elected leader in student politics at Sydney University.

“Dave personified all that a community might look for in a young leader and everything a person might look for in a friend,” Sandy Cardin, president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network, which includes the ROI Community, said in a statement. “Dave’s passion for Jewish life inspired this fund, which will support collaborations between young Jewish social entrepreneurs in Australia.”

Cardin added, “In order to engage more young Jews in the community, we need to embrace new and innovative approaches, and we believe that the grants will empower these young activists to create change for themselves and for the broader Jewish community.”

Jewish Agency establishes South American fund


The Jewish Agency has established a Fund for the Jewish Future to strengthen the connection of young South American Jews to Israel and to the global Jewish community.

The program, announced Wednesday at the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting in Buenos Aires, will launch next year. The agency said that $1 million already has been committed to the fund.

The fund will focus on local activities for young South American Jews who have visited Israel through Taglit-Birthright or participated in long-term Israel experiences through Masa, and sending young people on social action missions throughout the world. More than 1,000 young people from Argentina participate each year in the Masa program.

“The Jewish community in Argentina is uniquely Israel-focused and connected,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky. “One quarter of the community has already made aliyah, and for those who remain in Argentina, Israel serves as the glue that keeps the community together and strong. The fund is a new model developed by the Jewish Agency where the local community finances the Israel experiences for the members of their own community,”

It is the first time in a decade that the Jewish Agency Board of Governors has met outside of Jerusalem, in order to observe the activities of the Jewish Agency in South America.

Board members held a memorial service for the victims of two terrorist attacks that shook the Jewish community in Argentina: the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in 1994, which killed 85 and wounded more than 200, and the attack on the Israeli Embassy in 1992 in which 29 people were killed.

Buffett points the way


Warren E. Buffett is the second-richest person in the United States (after Microsoft’s Bill Gates), so when he purchased an Israeli-based stock not long ago, investors throughout the world sat up and took notice. What made it more newsworthy is that it was Buffett’s first major foray into overseas investing. Up to that point, he said he could always find good stocks here at home.

Then the Sage of Omaha’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, paid $4 billion for an 80 percent share of Iscar Metalworking, and he said at the time that he was looking for other low-priced jewels.

What drew him to Israel, Buffett said, was its brainpower.

“If you’re going to the Middle East to look for oil, you can skip Israel. If you’re looking for brains, look no further. Israel has shown that it has a disproportionate amount of brains and energy.”

For other investors looking to invest in Israel, but with perhaps not quite $4 billion to invest, there is a goodly variety of choices.

Israel’s economy actually has been doing well compared to those of many other countries, in part because the country did not have a credit bubble.

Andy Brown of Aberdeen Asset Management, which runs First Israel Fund, admits that inflation is something of a worry, but he argues that Israel’s “long-term fundamentals are strong. Israel has a young, growing, healthy population.”

Brown believes that a good time to invest in Israel is when political unrest has made stock prices a bargain. 

STOCK INDEX FUND

The Amidex35 Israel Mutual Fund consists of the 35 largest Israeli companies. It is a unique combination of stocks that trade on either the U.S. or Tel Aviv exchanges — the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange, or Nasdaq (where smaller stocks trade).

Why “35”? Because 35 stocks have been found to provide 60 percent of the return of all Israeli stocks.

Why “Amidex”? It is a combination of a word for “friend” and “index.”

The fund is no-load (no sales charge), but if you sell within a year, there is a redemption fee.

Minimum first investment is $500, with $250 for follow-ups; for automatic investments, only $100.

For more information, call (888) 876-3566.

Amidex is setting up other index funds, such as the Cancer Innovations & Healthcare Fund.

Index funds over the years have done better than 70 percent or so of actively managed funds. In his book “What Works on Wall Street” (fourth edition, 2012), James P. O’Shaughnessy claims this is because index funds do not change their strategy. On the other hand, John Bogle, who started the Vanguard Group, attributes the success of index funds to their low expenses.

A CLOSED-END FUND

Unlike Amidex35, the First Israel Fund (ISL) does not issue new shares.

A limited number of shares trade among buyers and sellers. It is a “closed-end” fund, not an “open-end” one, such as Amidex35.

The advantage of this is that if shareholders decide to sell out, en masse, the fund does not have to raise cash to meet redemptions by selling its holdings, perhaps at hurtfully low prices.

The fund is not an index fund. The managers buy and sell Israeli stocks. It is a concentrated fund, with 75 percent of its assets in its top-10 holdings. The fund is overweight in information technology, particularly the stock Check Point Software. It is underweight in cyclical sectors, such as energy.

As with other closed-end funds, First Israel trades at a discount to its underlying value — right now, around 12 percent. Of course, shareholders may wind up selling their holdings at the same or a larger discount.

The fund trades on the New York Stock Exchange.

For more information, call (866) 839-5205.

First Israel Fund was launched in 1990 by Credit Suisse Asset Management, and it is headquartered in Philadelphia.

EXCHANGE-TRADED FUND

iShares Israel is an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) — an index fund that trades as a stock. ETFs traditionally have very low expenses. In the case of this fund, expenses come in at 0.61 percent.

The fund follows an index called the Morgan Stanley Capped Investable Market Index. It was launched in March 2008.

iShares Israel holds 83 stocks but is tilted toward Teva Pharmaceuticals, which has 23 percent of its assets.

For more information, call (800) 474-2737.

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

For investors interested in buying individual stocks, whether in Israel or elsewhere, Teva Pharmaceuticals may be a good bet. The Value Line Investment Survey rates its timeliness “above average,” and its analyst writes: “Despite the inevitable slowdown in the Copaxone franchise, we think Teva can still prosper in the years to come, assuming its growth strategy succeeds.” (Copaxone is a drug against multiple sclerosis.)

Amdocs Limited is rated average by Value Line, which writes that the stock “has decent 3- to 5-year appreciation potential.” The company provides information-system solutions.

Check Point Software is also rated average, and Value Line writes that the stock has “minimal appreciation potential out to 2016.”

Elbit Systems (defense electronics and electrical optical systems) “is a suitable choice for conservative, income-oriented investors with a long-term perspective.”

Ormat Technologies (alternative energy) is ranked below average in timeliness, but the stock, writes Value Line, may “appeal to patient investors looking for less risky (nonsolar) exposure to the alternative energy sector.”

Leiby Kletzky’s parents release statement, launch memorial fund


The parents of murdered 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky have created a memorial fund in their son’s name to assist the needy.

Nachman and Itta Kletzky released a statement Thursday urging people to give to charity and think of their son while praying and lighting Shabbat candles.

The statement was issued the day after the Kletzkys emerged from sitting shiva.

“We thank G-d for the nearly nine beautiful years that He entrusted us with Leiby’s pure soul,” the Kletzkys wrote in their statement. “We are certain that Leiby is now looking down from heaven and blessing us all.”

“If tragedy is to ever befall any of you, G-d forbid,” the parents continued, “you should be blessed with a community and public as supportive of ours.”

The statement said the memorial fund would “channel the lovingkindness shown to us and our dear Leiby toward many, many others in need”

As of 11 a.m. on Friday, the Leiby Kletzky Memorial Fund had raised $143,172 from 3,301 online donors.

Also on Thursday a grand jury indicted 35-year-old Levi Aron on charges of having kidnapped and murdered the Brooklyn boy.

BIRD Foundation awards $8 million for U.S.-Israel research


A foundation that works to support industrial research and development to benefit the United States and Israel will invest more than $8 million in nine new projects.

The projects approved at last week’s board of directors meeting of the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development, or BIRD, Foundation, include advanced developments in life sciences, information technology for medical applications, electronics, software and energy.  Among the companies participating include Pioneer (a subsidiary of Dupont), Access USA and MedStar Health.

The BIRD Foundation promotes cooperation between Israeli and American companies in various fields of technology and helps locate strategic partners in both countries for joint product development. The newly approved projects add to the more than 820 projects in which the foundation has invested some $290 million in the past 34 years. The projects have produced direct and indirect sales of more than $8 billion.

“American companies are investing considerable resources in innovation, including identifying unique solutions worldwide,” Dr. Eitan Yudilevich, CEO of the BIRD Foundation, said in a news release. “In Israel they find an inexhaustible pool of creative ideas and innovation. Synergetic connections are created between American and Israeli companies, with the assistance of the BIRD Foundation, creating a great advantage to both parties, which eventually leads to manufacturing jobs, sales and profits.”

Museum launches fund to honor slain guard


The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has established an endowment fund in memory of a security guard slain there.

Stephen Tyrone Johns was gunned down last June 10 by 88-year-old white supremacist James Wenneker von Brunn of Maryland during an attempted raid on the museum. Johns died from his injuries shortly after the attack.

To pay tribute to the officer, the museum has established the Stephen Tyrone Johns Summer Youth Leadership Program Endowment Fund. Under the program, 50 Washington-area teens will participate in a summer program to learn about the lessons of the Holocaust.

A fund established to assist the Johns family was closed last October.

Von Brunn was shot and critically wounded in the exchange of gunfire at the museum. He died Jan. 6 while awaiting trial in the case.

The Social Security Fix: Pay Back Funds


President Bush has proposed the biggest transfer of wealth in history. He plans to use trillions of dollars in contributions to the Social Security

Trust Fund to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and other administration spending priorities. And he does not want to pay the money back.

The Social Security system works by requiring Americans to make regular contributions to a trust fund. Currently, with more workers contributing to the trust fund than retirees receiving benefits, the Social Security Trust Fund should be accumulating a surplus. If the Bush Administration would leave the trust fund untouched, there would be no Social Security “crisis.”

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the trust Trust Fund to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and other administration spending priorities. is projected to accumulate a surplus of $5.8 trillion by 2020. Combined with future employer and employee contributions, full benefits could be paid for decades to come. The CBO, for example, estimates that without any changes to the system, there would be enough assets to pay growing benefits until at least 2052.

The real threat to Social Security is that President Bush and Republicans in Congress have raided the trust fund to pay for tax cuts and soaring government spending. Over the last four years, the Republicans have taken almost $500 billion from the trust fund to pay for tax cuts, the war and other government expenses. According to the latest estimates from the CBO, the Republicans plan to divert an additional $2.2 trillion from the trust fund over the next decade.

In Los Angeles alone, $64 billion paid into Social Security for workers' retirements will be spent by the government over the next 10 years. That's $15,000 per each worker in the 30th Congressional District.

President Bush and his congressional allies do not want to pay this money back. Instead, they are saying the system is in “crisis” and that privatization and steep cuts in benefits are needed to “save” Social Security.

Listen to what President Bush said just this month about the Social Security Trust Fund: “Some in our country think that Social Security is a trust fund — in other words, there's a pile of money being accumulated. That's just simply not true. The payroll taxes going into the Social Security are spent. They're spent on benefits, and they're spent on government programs. There is no trust…. And we'd better start dealing with it now.”

In his State of the Union Address in 1998, President Clinton proposed that Congress “reserve every penny of the surplus” to ensure the long-term viability of Social Security. This gave rise to the concept of a “lockbox” that would protect the Social Security Trust Fund from federal spending.

And President Clinton, with the cooperation of Congress, delivered on his promise. By 2000, the last year of his presidency, the federal government was not using a single dollar of the trust fund to pay for government operations.

Five years later, the lockbox has been broken and the trust funds stolen. Instead of talking about how to save the trust fund, President Bush presumed in his 2005 State of the Union Address that it's already spent, warning that “in the year 2027, the government will somehow have to come up with an extra $200 billion to keep the system afloat.”

President Bush and the Republican leadership in Congress are the trustees for people's hard-earned Social Security contributions. We need to start asking them some blunt questions. What have they done with the surplus? Why have they squandered the retirement nest egg of American families? And why weren't they more careful or responsible?

The answer to the problems facing Social Security is not to cut benefits or privatize the system. That's a betrayal of millions of honest families who have played by the rules and trusted President Bush and the Republican leadership to do the right thing.

Instead, the answer is three simple words: “Pay it back.”

Rep. Henry Waxman is a Democrat representing the 30th Congressional District in Los Angeles.

Yeladim


 

The Fire of Money

In Parshat Ki Tisa, each Israelite is instructed to give a half-shekel to the “temple fund” every year. There is a midrash – a story told by rabbis to teach a lesson – about this portion. Rabbis say that God took a fiery coin from under His heavenly throne, showed it to Moses and said: “Like this shall they give.”

What can we learn from the image of a fiery coin? The rabbis say that fire can be destructive if misused, but can be very useful and beneficial if used properly. And so it is with money. Perhaps money is – or can be – the “root of all evil,” but it can also be used for charity and acts of kindness.

Back Words

Solve the clues. The second answer is the first answer written backwards!

Give money

– – –

A high-pitch bark

– – –

A Yiddle Riddle

Turn the following description into two words.

A scratchy inflammation in the middle of your body.

Now, put the two together to get one Hebrew word and one big prize!

Being Jewish in America

Written by a fifth grade,

Emek Hebrew Academy

It is difficult sometimes to be one of a small number of Jews in America and in L.A., especially around Christmastime, when a lot of stores are sporting trees, lights, etc. Yet, somehow, my family manages to celebrate Shabbat, keep kosher and go to a Jewish school. There are lots of churches in L.A., but there are also a lot of shuls and Jewish organizations that make it easier and more fun to be a Jewish American!

 

L.A. Resident Loses Family in Bus Bombing


Aviel Atash was the entire world for his mother, Rachel. A developmentally delayed woman who married at the age of 39, Rachel never thought she would have children, and Aviel was like a dream, said her brother, Los Angeles resident Yoram Partush.

But that dream exploded last week when the 31′ 2-year-old was killed by a suicide bomber on a Beersheba bus.

Rachel is expected to be in the hospital for several weeks recovering from serious burns and shrapnel wounds, said Partush, who has a son the same age as Aviel.

Rachel remembers everything about that day — the bombers head that landed right next to her, the words “say goodbye for me” uttered by a dying woman, the people who rushed in to rescue her and her son, who was alive immediately after the blast.

The loss is especially difficult for Rachel’s parents, who were responsible for Aviel’s daily care. Moroccan Jews who raised 13 children in Beersheba, the couple lost a son three years ago in a work-related accident; 22 years ago, their daughter was murdered.

“When I heard the news of the bombing I didn’t want to think about it; we’ve had too much tragedy to bring another one like this,” said Partush, a member of Congregation B’nai David-Judea who has lived in Los Angeles for six years. “But it caught us. You never know when it’s going to come.”

A memorial fund for Aviel Atash has been set up to help cover the help Rachel will need when she gets out of the hospital. Donations can be made to Congregation B’nai David- Judea, 8906 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles CA, 90035, with “Atash Memorial Fund” in the memo line.

Big-Screen King’s Legacy of Generosity


Paul I. Goldenberg avoided playgrounds and sports when he was growing up because he lacked athletic prowess. He spent hours in the cool darkness of a movie house.

In central Los Angeles of the ’30s, where his parents had little money to spare, Goldenberg scrounged for pop bottles, collecting enough deposits to pay for weekend film marathons. From Friday to Sunday, he lived vicariously, absorbed in the characters portrayed by Clark Gable and Groucho Marx.

Several cousins also lived in his parents’ modest home. Its backyard was shaded by fruit trees, enriched by a flock of 40 chickens. He was 16 when his father, Joe, a former attorney toiling as a shipyard accountant, died. During shiva, nearly every man in the neighborhood shared an anecdote with the teen-ager about his father’s generosity, that freely dispensed advice or a sack of surplus avocados.

His private passion for film would play a formative role in the financial bonanza created by his adult alter-ego, "the King of Big Screen." But his father’s powerful role model was equally influential, propelling Goldenberg into one of the state’s largest political contributors and a major donor to numerous non-profit groups.

The Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda honored Goldenberg, 75, owner of La Habra’s Paul’s TV & Video, as well as others at a gala last month. Goldenberg helped fund the home’s newest $14.3 million building, designed to reflect the latest research on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He pledged another $2 million towards a $52 million nursing-home expansion, which is hoped will accommodate 40 percent of those on the facility’s 350-person waiting list.

"I can’t think of anything more worthwhile than the home in Reseda," said Goldenberg, whose cousin, Israel Murstein, is a resident, as was another cousin, the late Betty Klein.

"It is nicer than any hotel you’ve ever been in," he said of the Alzheimer’s home for 96 residents, known as the Goldenberg-Ziman Special Care Center.

"He gets it," said Molly Forrest, the home’s chief executive. "The elderly in our community have to have a quality facility," she said, adding that the Jewish home alone in Southern California was singled out in March by state licensing authorities for its perfect certification survey.

Goldenberg’s gold mine is Paul’s TV, located four miles from the nearest freeway exit. Far better known throughout Southern California is Goldenberg’s advertising boast as the self-proclaimed champion of big-screen television sales. "I am the king," he declares in newspaper, billboard and radio spots that tout big-screen sales of more than 100,000 units.

For the 19th straight year, Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric Corporation named Paul’s as the biggest single-store seller of its big-screen TVs.

"We love Paul," said Cayce Blanchard, a Mitsubishi spokeswoman in Irvine. Paul’s sells only two brands: Mitsubishi and Panasonic flat screen TVs.

"He does an unbelievable amount of business," said Brad Bridenbecker, city manager of La Habra, which perennially counts Paul’s among its top sales-tax producers.

How much, Goldenberg won’t say. The store’s modest size and appearance often surprise first-time visitors. Equally surprising is its staffing. On a recent weekday, five salesmen manned a showroom smaller than the typical suburban home. To keep its pledge of four-hour delivery, Paul’s maintains a 30-truck fleet for installers that travel from Ventura to Carlsbad.

"I’m very dedicated to the idea that customers should get what they pay for," said Goldenberg. "With a chain of five or 10 stores, it’s very hard to know what’s going on with customer satisfaction."

Knowing Paul’s pulse is part of Goldenberg’s routine, which also includes frequent travels responding to invitations, such as one received recently from Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Although he occupies the store’s only private office, its desk and table are a neglected pile of papers in disarray. Customers, who often demand an audience with the "king," are more likely to see Goldenberg rooted to a desk reserved for customers filling out paperwork. Like petitioners approaching the throne, a procession of employees and visitors vie for his eye contact during an ongoing conversation that drags into hours due to the interruptions. He signs a proffered check; critiques a memo; explains required retouching to a painter; gives a deadline to a signmaker; criticizes a manufacturer’s warranty card; and imperiously calls employees for help answering questions.

Within Paul’s dominion, the ruler is a detail-oriented autocrat.

The late Jack Lawlor, who owned an advertising agency and believed Paul’s could attain regional prominence, created the trumped-up title.

"He was like an Olympic coach who pushed me to go farther than I ever would have," said Goldenberg, who got his start by borrowing $1,000 from his cousins to open a TV repair shop in Los Angeles.

In 1979, when Mitsubishi introduced the first big-screen TVs, Paul’s was one of the first takers, a confidence buoyed by Goldenberg’s own love for cinema. "I was among the first to recognize their potential for bringing a movie-like experience into the home," he said.

More than TVs are on display at Paul’s. A red velvet and gold crown is kept pristine under an acrylic cube. Nearby are photos of Goldenberg with former presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. It keeps company with the 138-page bound script for "Terminator 2," signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger; commemorative plaques for La Habra firefighters; a letter of thanks from Los Angeles’ Cardinal Roger Mahoney; and a signed Kobe Bryant jersey. More signed celebrity photos line two walls.

Goldenberg’s personal self-indulgences include a red Ferrari and Dodger season tickets behind home plate. He lives in La Habra Heights and is divorced. His son, Doug, is a botanist-biologist for the federal Bureau of Land Management. If there is a Paul’s succession plan, Goldenberg is unwilling to share it. "I wouldn’t have any challenger," he deadpanned.

"The store has allowed me to fulfill some of my dreams to help people who are less fortunate than I," said Goldenberg. He also contributed $209,210 to Democratic candidates and was the state’s fifth largest individual contributor to federal campaigns, the Los Angeles Times reported in January 1999.

He supports the California Highway Patrol 11-99 Foundation and chairs its scholarship committee, which awarded $1.2 million to 700 students this year.

"He has a big heart," said Pam Anspach Colletti, a counselor at La Habra’s Sonora High School, where Goldenberg personally hands out $500 student scholarships. He awarded 40 between two schools last spring. He also underwrites an annual trip for 10 students to Washington, D.C., from Los Angeles’ Dorsey High, his own alma mater.

"He has a wonderful spirit of giving in that he recognizes how blessed he is," said Juan M. Garcia, La Habra’s mayor. "It makes him feel good. He has more than he’ll ever need."

A recent recipient of Goldenberg’s charity is Duarte’s City of Hope, a cancer research and treatment center. Last year, he observed the facility firsthand during a friend’s illness.

"He stepped up to the plate and said he wanted to help," said Richard Leonard, a senior development officer at City of Hope, where Goldenberg is funding an elevated walkway. "He’s got a sense of tzedachah; he knows what’s just in his heart."

Though he considers himself Jewish, Goldenberg acknowledges his synagogue attendance is irregular.

"In Torah, it says ‘God loves the just man.’ There’s nothing about God loving the man who goes to synagogue.

"I’ve tried my best to be a just man."

Food Poverty Grows in Israel


When, not so long ago, the director of an Israeli nonprofit organization noticed that an employee would appear at work every Sunday morning so fatigued that he could barely function, he issued him a stern warning to "stop partying so hard on Saturday nights."

The gaunt-looking employee burst into tears, explaining that he had not eaten since Thursday afternoon, when he received his last hot meal of the week at work.

That sad tale is one of the stories that got Laurie Heller, the Israeli representative of the Baron De Hirsch Fund, to establish a new group to investigate and address the rising hunger and poverty in the Jewish State as the economy has fallen.

The Forum to Address Food Insecurity and Poverty in Israel brings together a number of groups to help match philanthropists with soup kitchens and other organizations that feed those in need.

The sponsoring groups include federations and foundations investing money in Israeli nongovernment organizations; the Brookdale Institute, which is the research arm of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; and Israeli government organizations. The forum is funded primarily by the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, the San Francisco Jewish Federation and the Rochlin Family Foundation.

The forum’s mission is to "make funding opportunities for many philanthropists to find their place in the range of solutions for food insecurity," said Heller, the group’s co-chair.

Using available research, the forum will determine "which problems are not being addressed by existing programs, where we need to put our emphasis collectively, where people can channel funding," she said.

To that end, the Brookdale Institute began a national survey in March to ascertain nutrition habits among Israelis. The study focused on three factors: food consumption in the general population — quantity, variety and types of food consumed; the nutritional components consumed, including both calories and various nutrients; and household difficulty in accessing adequate and appropriate food due to economic constraints.

The Brookdale survey interviewed Israelis age 22 and up in a national telephone survey of 1,490 households between March and May of this year.

The study examined the impact of hunger on focused groups of veteran Israeli families, immigrant families and Arab families, and within those groups, on children, the elderly, single-parent families and families with large numbers of children.

Although the results of the survey have not yet been released, some conclusions were leaked from the Ministry of Health and the report has been discussed around the country.

Consequently, the director of the Brookdale Institute, Jack Habib, issued a three-page summary of the findings.

"With the worsening of the economic crisis during the past two years," the summary states, "food poverty has again become an issue." Food poverty is defined as severe food shortages that lead to malnutrition, requiring emergency medical treatment.

"There is enough food, but 22 percent of the population doesn’t have enough money to purchase it on a regular basis," Heller said.

The Brookdale study found that while there are more than 125 organizations addressing the problem of food poverty through food distribution, such as canned food drives and recycling food, such as leftovers from restaurants, there is virtually no coordination or shared information between the organizations dealing with the problem.

Heller’s new organization seeks to coordinate the efforts of each organization and also sponsor new laws that will encourage organizations to help.

For example, the forum wants to introduce the equivalent of the United States’ Good Samaritan Law, which protects institutions from lawsuits in the event that people get sick from donated food.

Cheri Fox, who is co-chair of the forum, executive director of the Fox Family Foundation and co-chair of the Jewish Funders Network, emphasizes that she, Habib and Heller are not trying to provide an alternative to the government’s response to hunger, but working to enhance it.

"The study was done with a team of researchers from the Ministry of Health and in partnership with National Insurance and Social Welfare," Habib said. "We now have fairly intensive discussions with government ministries with the hope that they will move to develop more effective responses to the situation."

The effectiveness of these responses, said Heller and Fox, is an urgent matter.

"In school-age children," Heller explained, "malnutrition lowers IQ by 10 points."

"When malnourishment is found in the 0-5 age group," Fox added, it "can create severe, irreversible problems in physical and intellectual development."

As such, she notes, Israel is beginning to see "enormous gaps between rich and poor."

Whereas the gap used to be 10 points out of 100 on standardized tests, it is now 20 points.

"The impact of the economic crisis in this country is long-term," Heller argues. "We are losing another generation to poverty."

Community Briefs


Prime Minister ToutsMuseum

If there was any doubt that the Polish government is takingseriously plans to build a Museum of Polish Jewish History in Warsaw, they wereput to rest Feb. 5 in Beverly Hills.

That’s when Leszek Miller, prime minister of Poland, metwith about 100 area Jews to reaffirm his commitment to the long-plannedproject. “We want to reach beyond the image of Poland as a place of martyrdomfor the Jews,” said Miller in his brief prepared remarks. “The museum will be agreat educational project, and a symbol of our new approach to the history ofthe Jews.”

Miller’s appearance before the gathering of Jewish religiousand communal leaders, including Holocaust survivors and elected officials, wasorganized by the Consulate General of Poland in cooperation with the AmericanJewish Committee (AJCommittee). It took place during the first visit by aPolish prime minister to the West Coast, according to Consul General KrzysztofW. Kasprzyk.

Miller announced the establishment of the Museum of theHistory of the Polish Jews in Warsaw last January. The multimedia museum, to bedesigned by Frank Gehry, is to be completed in 2006.

Polish officials, who say that as many as 80 percent of Jewsacross the world can trace their roots back to Poland, hope the museum willspur Jewish tourism to their country. They are also hoping that Jewish donorsabroad will help fund some of the museum’s estimated $63 million cost.

Among other exhibits, the museum will recreate the homes andstreets representing 1,000 years of Jewish civilization in Poland. The Naziinvasion and deportation to death camps claimed the lives of the majority of Poland’s3.5 million Jewish population, which had been the largest in Europe.

Miller said the museum is part of an agenda ofreconciliation between Poland and world Jewry that includes the restitution forJewish property, restoration of Jewish cemeteries, commemoration of victims atdeath camps throughout Poland, and increasing ties between young Jews and Poles,and between Polish and Jewish entrepreneurs. The museum itself will demonstrate”how important a place was occupied by Jews in the history of Poland,” saidMiller.

AJCommittee Los Angeles chapter President Peter Weil saidMiller’s appearance, amidst high level visits with high-tech entrepreneurs anda previous state visit with President George W. Bush, was a clear indication ofthe value the Polish government places on its relations with world Jewry.

Along with Miller and the consul general, guests heardremarks from Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, AJCommittee’s West Coast regional director;County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; Adrien Brody, star of “The Pianist,” andmuseum director Jerzy Halberstadt. 

For more information the Museum ofPolish Jewish History in Warsaw, go to www.jewishmuseum.org.pl . — Staff Report

 

Media “Blitz”New Israel Fund Cuts Back

The New Israel Fund will centralize and scale back its U.S.offices in the hopes of pumping $1 million more toward peace and social justiceefforts in Israel. The Washington-based group, which promotes peace and civilrights programs in Israel, will close regional offices in Los Angeles, Bostonand Chicago, and expand hubs in New York and San Francisco, the group announcedFeb. 6.

For the three-person Los Angeles staff who will soon faceunemployment as a result of consolidation, the recent news brings mixedreactions.

“I still strongly believe in the importance of theorganization and the value of its work in Israel, and I understand that theinternational board that made the decision took a lot of issues intoconsideration in reaching its conclusions,” said Los Angeles New Israel FundDirector David Moses. “At the same time, I’m deeply disappointed in the closingof this office. We’ve had 4 years of continuous growth and increased visibilityin the Los Angeles Jewish community and I’m very proud of what we’veaccomplished here.”

The move was aimed at lowering the group’s overhead andconsolidating operations, and should largely fund the additional $1 million for Israel, officials said. The fund said it has awarded $120 million to 700Israeli groups since 1979. — Rachel Brand, Staff Writer

Funds Combat ‘Who Is a Jew’ Wars


In 1997, stimulated by the controversy over whether non-Orthodox converts would be registered as Jews by the Israeli government — the latest battle in the "who is a Jew?" wars — The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles began making funds available to what it calls "pluralism" projects. The projects are programs and activities aimed at stimulating religious pluralism and supporting "alternative" forms of Judaism in Israel, as well as increasing Jewish knowledge among Israel’s secular population.

In all, 15 pluralism projects are currently under way, funded directly from Los Angeles (not through the Jewish Agency) at a cost of about $425,000. While the projects are separate from the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership, some are in Tel Aviv schools, providing an overlap of services — and possibly effects — with the partnership.

Pluralism projects also differ from partnership activities in that The Federation provides money but does not help to run the programs. While The Federation is careful to assert that pluralism money goes to programs, not movements, the distinction may be academic, because some of the programs funded are run by denominational institutions.

A representative sampling of last year’s pluralism grant recipients are:

  • Beit Daniel, a Reform synagogue and school that provides workshops and teacher training, especially before the holidays, in 15 secular Tel Aviv-area schools.
  • A Conservative movement bar/bat mitzvah training program for special-needs children.
  • The Kelman Center for Jewish Education at Tel Aviv University that helps teachers write their own curricula to bring Jewish texts and identity issues into the classroom.
  • The Reut Institute, an outgrowth of the coed Orthodox Reut School in Jerusalem, that develops curriculum and trains principals in pluralistic Jewish education.
  • Midreshet Iyun, a Conservative Learning Center, that runs a joint project with Tel Aviv University’s Jewish studies department, in which teachers study for master’s degrees in Jewish studies.
  • Bat Kol Bamidbar, which trains informal educators to teach Jewish values and heritage in Negev and Arava schools.
  • Orh Torah Stone Colleges, which prepares religious women to serve as advocates for women clients in Israel’s rabbinical courts.
  • The Tali Educational Fund, which provides Jewish studies in secular public schools.
  • Yesodot of Beit Morasha, which teaches the compatibility of traditional Judaism and democracy in Orthodox public schools.

Budget Worries


Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed state budget for 2002-2003 has local Jewish organizations worried.

With the state’s approximately $12 billion deficit (in a proposed $98 billion budget) covered by program cuts, along with loans and spending deferrals, local agencies such as Jewish Family Service (JFS) and Jewish Vocational Service may face a significant reduction in funding.

"Jewish community agencies get literally millions and millions and millions of dollars in funding from the government for provision of nonsectarian services," said Michael Hirschfeld, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC). "Right now we have legislators saying, ‘You need to worry.’"

The programs most at risk are those funded directly through the state’s General Fund, which comprises about 80 percent of the budget. Since General Fund allocations are not specifically directed toward programs but funneled through state agencies, they are politically easier to cut when budgets get tight.

While Paul Castro, Jewish Family Service CEO, expects most of his organization’s funding will be "at least held constant or only [suffer] a slight reduction," more than a quarter of JFS’ budget comes from the state.

Jessica Toledano, who monitors the state budget for JCRC as director of government relations, said, "Any organization that gets money from the state General Fund is on alert."

For example, JFS programs funded in part by the state include the family violence program, which assists victims of domestic violence, and the citizenship program, which helps immigrants through the difficult process of becoming a citizen. Senior citizen health care programs and the Linkages program, which connects those in need of mental health care with appropriate providers, are also endangered by the proposed budget cuts. In all, JFS receives $6 million of its $22 million budget from the state.

The programs most reliant on General Fund dollars are those serving the elderly. Other Jewish agency nonsectarian services, such as job training and meal programs, are generally either federal or state-mandated services, with allocations set aside in harder-to-cut special funding.

The governor’s budget is only the first step in a months-long process toward preparing the final state budget, so it is still too early to know exactly what services will have to be cut.

However, Jewish organizations are not waiting to see where the ax falls. Through the JCRC and statewide through the Jewish Political Action Committee in Sacramento, they are preparing their own set of priorities and budgeting necessities.

As Hirschfeld put it, "We’re engaged now in a consultative process with professional and lay leaders of Jewish agencies, deciding what politically is worth advocating for and what we cannot save."

Toledano is optimistic that programs that seem endangered now may yet be funded: "There are other pots to look in. In a few months, there may be money."

The state’s legislative analyst’s office, which released a report on Davis’ proposals last week, is more skeptical about the budget’s workability, noting, "While ‘on paper’ the plan appears to work, many of its assumptions are overly optimistic," which "raises the risk of substantial future budgetary imbalances emerging." The report goes on to note that, in addition to other shortfalls in the proposal, the governor’s budget assumes nearly $3 billion in spending reductions for this year, which have yet to be implemented.

Jewish organizations are considering teaming up for lobbying efforts with like-minded providers of nonsectarian services "to try to be a stronger force in Sacramento," Toledano told The Journal. JCRC works with the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California (JPAC), to secure funding in Sacramento. JPAC Chair Barbara Yaroslavsky wrote in the organization’s December newsletter, "Maintaining funding for our agencies will be very difficult in 2002."

For most concerned citizens, however, now is not the time to be worried, Hirschfeld says. Many political and economic factors are expected to come into play between now and July 1, when the final state budget must be passed by the Legislature.

Castro stressed that because the governor’s budget is far from final, people with concerns can influence the cuts made to service programs.

"Anybody with a relationship or contact with a legislator should write them," he urged. "Tell them not to balance the budget on the backs of these vulnerable populations.

"The important thing to keep in mind is that this process has just begun," he said. "This initial draft in January will look much different in July."

Shefa Fund Reaches L.A.


"The premise of our mission is idealistic, even romantic, but we operate on a very realistic set of values," says Jeffrey Dekro, founder and president of the Shefa Fund, a public foundation aimed at social causes. "We not only call for justice, but we work within the Jewish community to create justice."

A newcomer to Los Angeles, the Shefa Fund is unabashedly liberal — "progressive" is the preferred term — at a time when daily clashes in Israel and social conditions at home seem to be tilting the American Jewish community to the right.

Already the Shefa Fund, and Celia Bernstein, its new West Coast director, are making their presence felt by joining in an informal coalition of progressive organizations to raise their profile and impact in the Jewish community.

Shefa (Hebrew for "abundance") was established 13 years ago in Philadelphia, where it still has its headquarters, and while the fund is active in half a dozen American cities and in Israel, Los Angeles is its first full-fledged satellite office.

The Shefa Fund is a public foundation established in 1988 to encourage American Jews to "use their tzedakah [charitable] resources to create a more just society, and, in the process, to transform Jewish life so that it becomes more socially conscious and spiritually invigorating," their press release states. The fund’s services include low-income community investing, socially responsible grant-making and education for those funding the grants.

In its first function, Shefa is asking Jewish institutions to invest a small percentage of their enormous financial resources in low-income and disadvantaged communities in their own urban backyards.

"We see Los Angeles as a key Jewish community in the country, yet many individual Jews are disconnected," Dekro says. "We’ve come here not to take money out of the community, but to contribute to the Jewish and general communities up and down the West Coast."

The son of Germany Jewish refugees, Dekro believes that the admonition, "Never Again," applies not just to Jewish victims but to endangered people everywhere.

He estimates that Jewish federations, family foundations, synagogues and rabbinical pension funds collectively manage an eye-popping $25 – $50 billion in assets and endowments.

Shefa’s modus operandi calls for investing a tiny fraction of this sum in community-based banks, credit unions and loan funds, admittedly at a loss of some interest returns compared to commercial banks.

These community development financial institutions, in turn, make low-interest loans for their clients for housing, business development, worker retraining, child care and other social services.

TZEDEK (Tzedek/"Justice" Economic Development Campaign), a Shefa subsidiary, has catalyzed $11 million of such investments, since its start four years ago, in Washington, D.C.; Boston; Chicago; Oakland; Greensboro, N.C. and Harrisburg Penn., with other efforts underway in Miami, New York and Philadelphia, according to Bernstein.

Her first goal in Los Angeles is to raise $5.4 million from large institutional funders and private donors for low-income neighborhoods that are starved for credit. She has begun talking to The Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation.

Bernstein feels that her campaign meets Maimonides’ criterion for the highest form of charity by helping the recipients to help themselves. She cites the Hebrew Free Loan Societies and landsmanshaften (hometown associations) of the early 20th century, which helped Jewish small-businessmen get started when banks turned them down.

In its second role as distributor of "socially responsible grants," Shefa focuses on four main areas of concern: economic justice, social justice, Middle East peace and transforming Jewish American life.

Typical grants listed in Shefa’s last annual report are the Better Beginning Day Care ($500), Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development ($29,600), Jewish Student Press Service ($4,000), and Project Kesher, which trains Jewish women in the former Soviet Union as grass-roots community organizers ($1,500).

As a public foundation, Shefa is not an advocacy organization itself, but makes a variety of grants to groups advocating progressive causes.

In its third role, Shefa seeks to educate contributing funders in socially responsible giving, combining traditional Jewish teachings with contemporary liberal principles.

"We call this the ‘Torah of Money’ and it informs everything we do," says Dekro, who has co-authored a book on his philosophical outlook called "Jews, Money and Social Responsibility: A ‘Torah of Money’ for Contemporary Life," (The Shefa Fund, 1993).

Shefa’s fundraising, much of it based on its faith in Jewish-Arab cooperation, has been hard hit by the continuing intifada. While in fiscal year 2000 (ending June 30), Shefa was able to distribute $4.25 million in grants, in the current year the figure fell to $3.25 million.

Dekro blames the $1 million drop on "the situation" in Israel. "Peace funding is down and past funders on the highest level have cut back," he says.

One of Shefa’s middle-sized grants is for $40,000 to the Committee for the Future, which seeks to launch a new national progressive organization, called USAction.

Although nothing that ambitious is planned in Los Angeles, a quiet effort is underway to bind together the Jewish community’s liberal and progressive organizations for mutual support, exchanges of ideas and occasional joint projects.

Key professionals, who meet on a monthly basis, represent Americans for Peace Now, ARZA (Association of Reform Zionists in America), Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem, New Israel Fund, Progressive Jewish Alliance, Shefa Fund, Sholem Community, and Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring.

The group is so informal that it hasn’t found a name yet. Though suggested designations include "Jewish Progressive L.A.," "Left of Center Group" and "Informal Coalition."

Last April, the group co-sponsored a speaker from Settlement Watch, an Israeli organization opposing expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, with Shefa underwriting the advertising expenses.

Some members of the same group, joined by others, collaborated in placing a half-page ad in The Jewish Journal before last month’s solidarity rally, affirming their stand with the people of Israel, while advocating a just peace and mutual respect between all peoples in the Middle East.

The older resident organizations of the coalition have received Shefa as a welcome addition to their ranks, though opinion varies on the group’s future role.

"It is very encouraging to have the Shefa Fund here, both for their support and as a confirmation that Los Angeles is seen as a vital community," says Joan Patsy Ostroy, founding president of the Progressive Jewish Alliance and chair of its executive committee.

David Pine, West Coast director for Americans for Peace Now, believes that if the coalition can develop a joint project, Shefa might be able might be able to identify a fundraiser to get the project off the ground.

Mindy Eisner, regional director for ARZA/World Union, North America, represents the only large membership organization in the informal coalition. She sees some common ground with the other members, but so far, she says, "We have not defined what we can accomplish." Susan Lerner, a vegvayser, or leader, of the Sholem Community, hopes that the coalition might revitalize the tradition of social justice, "which it would be criminal for the organized Jewish community to forget."

Eric Gordon, director of the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring, says that with every constituent organization eager to draw from the same small pool of energetic, generous and progressive activists, the coalition may face some future strains. That, Gordon says, acknowledges that "We [progressives] are a minority in the Jewish community … but those willing to stick their necks out have always been in the minority."

Israel 101


The October Violence is the short-hand designation for the deadly sniping, shooting and police action between Palestinians and Israelis, including the unprecedented call-to-arms of Israeli Arabs. If American Jews accept “October Violence” as the title (Palestinians call it “the riots,” while the American press reprises the frightening “intifada”), two months later we haven’t yet found a way to talk about it, even among ourselves.

At the New Israel Fund dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel a week ago, honoring Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg and community activist David Abel, I saw how controversy can grow even among those of us on the same side.

The New Israel Fund is my favorite answer whenever people ask me what to do about Israel. It endows scores of Israeli organizations that give me hope: programs promoting religious pluralism, civil rights, Israeli-Arab dialogue and the improved status of women, including attempts to resolve the problem of agunot (women whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce). These programs will help Israel stay the course regardless of how the Barak/Netanyahu and Gore/Bush elections are resolved. (Note: I’m a new member of the board.)

Though NIF has been around for 21 years, its work remains largely unknown to many Americans, who are still enrolled in Israel 101. Waking up to Israel now following the October Violence, as so many Americans are doing, can be harsh.

The keynote speech by Norman Rosenberg, NIF executive director, wasted no time on soft-soaping. He declared that achieving equality for Israeli Arabs is NIF’s “highest organizational priority,” a decision he acknowledged might challenge “sound business logic.”

Rosenberg cited widely known but still appalling economic disparities endured by 1 million Israeli Arabs, including unsanitary, overcrowded Arab towns and under-funded schools, an infant mortality rate nearly double that among Jews. But here are the lines that drew blood:

“What is it like to be an Arab living in a nation where the national anthem, ‘Hatikvah,’ refers to the yearning of the Jewish soul, to our 2,000-year-old dream of becoming a free people in our land?

“What is an Arab citizen of Israel supposed to tell his or her child about the relationship of that child to the Jewish State? Shall the child (like children here) be told that one day, he or she may become the nation’s president?

“The words of ‘Hatikvah’ are merely an insult; these disparities in investment are rejectionist,” Rosenberg said, clinching his case. “They are a rejection of universalistic notions of fairness and the very ideals of the Jewish State.”

The reference to “Hatikvah” almost threatened the hotel’s smoke alarm system. Rosenberg had crystallized the tension of the Jewish State into one heart-breaking word. Long after Rosenberg left the podium, angry Jewish leaders huddled about tables, whispering “Hatikvah,” their eyes scorched with pain of what was frequently called a “one-sided presentation.”

They wondered: Why was there no reference to Ehud Barak’s multibillion-dollar commitment to Arabs over four years? Why was there no counter-balancing statement that Israeli Arabs live better in Israel than they do across the border with the Palestinian Authority?

For activists who understand Jewish history and the sacrifices in trying to sustain both Zionism and peace, it was a brutal moment.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose political career began with the Soviet Jewry movement, was “not happy with what I heard.” Days later, he took pains to tell me that there is a better way to speak of reform without calling the entire state into question.

“Rosenberg overstated his case,” said Yaroslavsky, who introduced David Abel at the dinner. “It’s wrong for us to sit here in and impose a Brentwood-Westside perspective on the Middle East. It’s not fair to single out this one issue — even a legitimate issue which I’ve been talking about for years — as if Israel is our neighbor in West Los Angeles.” Without context and perspective, he said, a newcomer would miss the point.

For Yaroslavsky, that point remains the right to a Jewish homeland.

“I don’t believe the Jewish state can afford to ‘de-Judify,’ ” Yaroslavsky said. “I’ve studied the words to ‘Hatikvah,’ and I like them. ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ makes reference to Jesus Christ, and I’ve learned to live with that.

“Yes, there is a need for Israeli Arab equality, but equality of what? Equality of infrastructure investment is one thing, but there are many other issues. There’s a built-in contradiction in Israel, that’s the genius of it all. And this contradiction will be worked out not in a laboratory or a hotel, but in the real world.”

This week, by phone, Rosenberg tempered his remarks. He told me NIF is not blaming the Barak government, that he is “completely proud that the symbols of Israel are Jewish.”

“I’m saying that 1 million people can be a source of pride for Israel,” Rosenberg said, “and that this is not incompatible with being a Jewish state. Jewish donors need to support these changes.”

End in Sight


Establishment of a $4.2 million humanitarian fund to aid needy Holocaust survivors in California has been delayed by bureaucratic snafus for almost a year, but there are strong hopes that the fund will finally be operative by the end of the year.

An agreement by three Dutch insurance companies to pay out the $4.2 million was triumphantly announced by then California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush on Nov. 30 last year, but as of now, the money is still sitting in Holland.

The reason, California officials and the insurance companies agree, is that Quackenbush never asked for the money or set up a mechanism for administering it.

Five months after Quackenbush’s November announcement, he became enmeshed in a legislative inquiry on charges that he allowed California insurers to avoid billions of dollars in fines stemming from mishandled earthquake damage claims in return for much smaller donations to nonprofit funds set up by Quackenbush.

Because of the investigation, Quackenbush said last May, he held back from setting up a fund to receive and administer the Dutch money. He resigned under a cloud shortly after the hearings ended.

However, state auditor Elaine Howle said in a report last week and in an interview Monday that there is no explanation why no effort was made to collect the money during the five months elapsing between the agreement with the Dutch companies and the start of the legislative hearings.

Howle said she has no answer to that question and neither has Steven Green, chief counsel and deputy insurance commissioner, who came on board after Quackenbush’s resignation.

However, Green said, he is working with state Attorney General Bill Lockyer to set up a foundation, outside the Insurance Department, that will meet the legal requirements for administering and distributing the Dutch money.

The fund’s board of directors “will have input” from the California Holocaust Insurance Settlement Alliance, consisting of 33 Jewish organizations and individuals and set up by Quackenbush. Its chairman is Jona Goldrich, who was not available for comment.

However, Richard Mahon, spokesman for the Alliance, said that “Holocaust survivors will have a voice in the work of the foundation, and survivors will be the beneficiaries of the money.” He estimated that the foundation would be functioning 30 to 60 days from now.

Once the foundation is established, the three Dutch companies, ING Financial Services, Fortis Inc. and AEGON Insurance Group, will transmit the $4.2 million, said their Washington, D.C., spokesman, Frank Mankiewisz. “Our concern is that the money will be administered by a legitimate California foundation, with a certain transparency and an impeccable board of directors,” he said.

Laborers File Suit for Wartime Injustices


Jews who worked as slave laborers during the Nazi era are one step closer to receiving some measure of compensation for their ordeal.

After months of torturous negotiations, an agreement has been reached to establish a $5.2 billion fund for these victims of the Holocaust, according to several lawyers and Jewish officials involved in the talks.

The money will come from Germany, a group of German companies, and U.S. companies whose German subsidiaries used slave labor during the war, said Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which was among the groups negotiating on behalf of the laborers.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is slated to be in Berlin on Friday for the announcement of the agreement.

An issue still to be decided — which may prove as contentious as the negotiations themselves — is the process of distributing the funds to survivors.

The allocation “is still being discussed,” Taylor said.

The German offer would affect some 250,000 concentration camp survivors — 135,000 of them Jewish — who were enslaved by German companies during the war.

It would also compensate between 475,000 and 1.2 million non-Jewish forced laborers from Central and Eastern Europe who were deported and sent to work in Germany.

Payments would also go to other victims who never received reparations.

In addition to the $5.2 billion, claims against German insurers being handled by the International Commission on Holocaust Era Claims also are expected to be included in the fund, though this part of the agreement remained unclear.

The commission, which is headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, was scheduled to meet Wednesday in London.

“We hope that this will be a much delayed measure of justice for Holocaust survivors,” Taylor said.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat, who is representing the United States in the negotiations, declined Tuesday to give any details about the agreement before making a formal announcement Friday, according to his office.

The agreement came after months of difficult negotiations.

During the past several days, there was a flurry of activity. On Monday, lawyers for survivors reduced their demand to $5.7 billion. Earlier in the talks, the lawyers had demanded $28 billion. Germany and the group of German companies recently offered $4.2 billion to create the fund.

With the latest — and much reduced — demand from the victims’ representatives, the German side increased its offer and a compromise was achieved.

Michael Witti, an attorney for survivors based in Munich, said Tuesday that even with an agreement, there would be “no feeling of victory on the side of the victims.”

“You can never repay people for what they suffered,” he said.

A similar sentiment was expressed by survivor Hans Frankenthal, 73, who for 22 months during the war worked as a slave laborer at an armaments factory in the Mauthausen concentration camp and at I.G. Farben’s chemical factory near Auschwitz.

An agreement would mean a “guarantee that there would be no more suits,” said Frankenthal. “But you can’t take away” the history of the war.

Frankenthal, who recently published his memoirs, never received any compensation for his years of slave labor.

So far, 17 German firms have signed on to the industry initiative, and about 60 are considering doing so, according to industry spokesman Wolfgang Gibowski.

Among the U.S. firms with German subsidiaries that employed slave labor, a spokesman for Opel AG, the German branch of General Motors, said on Monday that Opel would join the industry fund.

Though the amount of the contribution has not been decided, “we are confessing our responsibility,” Opel spokesman Bruno Seifert said on Monday.

A Ford spokesman told reporters Monday that the company is one of some 200 companies with German operations that are considering taking part in the industry fund.

Publicity over the slave labor issue has achieved mixed results in Germany.

On one hand, a recent opinion poll suggested that the wrangling over money had caused latent German anti-Semitism to resurface.

On the other hand, some Germans have reacted with disgust to the news that many existing German companies whose predecessors used slave laborers are not joining the compensation fund.

A German newspaper this week published a letter from one reader, who hoped that “many, many people will boycott the products” of those German firms unwilling to participate in the fund.

“I for one don’t need any Bahlsen cookies or AGFA film or WFM tableware, nor Miele washing machines.”

JTA correspondent Toby Axelrod in Berlin contributed to this report.


Invitation to a Showdown


Readers’ Quiz: Who was the unhappiest Jew in Indiana last week?Was it:

A) Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who had to endurethe icy stares of 4,000 hostile delegates at the General Assembly ofthe Council of Jewish Federations, as he begged them to set asideinternal divisions in the face of deadly enemies such as Iraq?

B) United Jewish Appeal chairman Richard Wexler, who repeatedlyappealed to the assembly’s delegates not to let their anger overIsraeli religious policies cripple the legendary American Jewishfund-raising machine?

C) Avraham Burg, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, whoarrived to find an American Jewish philanthropic establishment deeplyalienated from his Jerusalem-based agency and bent on radical budgetcuts, despite all his recent streamlining efforts?

Answer: None of the above. It appears that the unhappiest Jew inIndiana last week was insurance agent Ed Wormser of Terre Haute, 85miles southwest of Indianapolis. Wormser is the president of TerreHaute’s tiny Jewish Welfare Fund, which raises some $17,000 a yearfrom the town’s 250 Jews. The General Assembly that convened inIndianapolis on Nov. 16 was about the biggest Jewish event ever totake place in Ed’s neck of the woods. Unfortunately, he missed itbecause no one remembered to tell him in time that it was takingplace.

“I think it’s crazy,” Wormser said in a telephone interview fromhis home, on the assembly’s second day. “I know we don’t raise bigbucks. We’re submicroscopic. Still, somebody should have thought ofus. Communities like ours can really benefit from experiencing ameeting like this, and we didn’t have the opportunity.”

The reason the organizers forgot Ed Wormser — and leaders likehim from a dozen other one-shul towns around Indiana — is one ofthose classic cases of many small errors adding up to one bigfoul-up. It’s the sort of mistake the organizers are certain to learnfrom so that they can go on to make new ones next year.

For the rest of us, though, there’s a bracing lesson in EdWormser’s misfortune. The assembly in Indianapolis may have been ascene of great turmoil and angst, but Wormser wanted to be there justthe same. People usually want to be part of the action, if they’reinvited.

That’s the way it is with a big convention. Whatever else it maybring — great clashes between warring philosophies, dark warnings oflooming danger — the delegates usually experience it as a rippinggood time. It’s a chance to learn from others, to be part ofsomething bigger. It’s a chance to see another part of the world,even if it’s only Indianapolis.

And, indeed, while the top guns of American and world Jewry werefulminating from the podium of the Indiana Convention Center lastweek, warning of the calamities sure to result from the Jews’disunity, disengagement, disaffiliation and that nasty habit ofmarrying the wrong kind, the folks down on the convention floor werehaving the time of their lives.

“I haven’t been to a General Assembly in many years, and I mustsay, it’s very good,” said an exuberant Delores Wilkenfeld, adelegate from Houston, interviewed on the assembly’s final day. “Ijust came from the biennial convention of the Union of AmericanHebrew Congregations in Dallas, and now I’m here, and it’s quite anexperience.”

Paradoxically, the assembly may have been all the more successfulthis year because of the crisis atmosphere that hung over theproceedings. With Netanyahu isolated on countless fronts at home andabroad, his journey to Indianapolis to mend fences with AmericanJewry, Israel’s last and best ally, captured the world’s imagination.As such, Israel-Diaspora strains over religious pluralism becamefront-page news from Kuwait to Kansas City. The whole world, itseemed, was watching to gauge the assembly’s mood.

“There’s no denying the experience of sitting in a room with 4,000people and listening to the prime minister of Israel,” said CindyChazan, executive director of the Jewish Federation of GreaterHartford, Conn. “Whether or not you agree with him, it’s a headyexperience.”

Because of such heady experiences, many delegates went home fromIndianapolis with energy renewed. The bitter pluralism debates, farfrom reducing their will to carry on fund raising and communitybuilding, actually gave them a boost. For a change, it seems, thethings they do and care about actually mattered. “What our peoplefelt was the passion,” said Marvin Goldberg, executive director ofthe Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, N.C.

All this may help to answer a riddle posed with increasingfrequency by the Jewish community’s latest generation of doomsayers– those who say that with the big crises of the past nearly settled,there are no big crises left, and that’s a crisis. Now that MiddleEast peace is visible on the horizon and most Jews are out of Russia,what will hold the Jews together? Does the age of normalcy meanthere’s nothing to look forward to but drift and decline?

If the Indianapolis assembly was any indication, normalcy may notbe all that bad. In the next great stage of Jewish history, beingJewish may be something like being American or French — ascomfortable as we make it, and filled with the content we give it.The challenge will be to fight today’s battles and then go back tobusiness as usual tomorrow.

Normalcy, then, may be a matter of learning to walk and chew gumat the same time. The Indianapolis experience suggests that Jews outthere are ready for it. What’s needed is a leadership that canremember to send out the invitations.

J.J. Goldberg is the author of “Jewish Power: Inside theAmercan Jewish Establishment.” He writes from New York.

Entrepreneurial Philanthropy, the New Charity


On a chilly autumn morning in late October, in a rooftop sukkahatop New York’s Abraham Joshua Heschel School, a small group ofrabbis, Hebrew teachers and millionaire investors joined hands tomark what their leader called a “defining point in American Jewishphilanthropy”: an $18 million fund to help create new Jewish dayschools around the country, paid for by a “partnership” among a dozenof America’s richest Jewish families.

Unwary listeners might have mistaken it for a defining point inJewish education. It wasn’t. The group’s leader, the canny investmentmaven Michael Steinhardt, is smart enough to know that $18 million,while a serious gesture, won’t revolutionize Jewish schooling. Itwill barely cover the chalk.

Jewish giving is another story. An alliance of a dozen wealthyfamilies could start a revolution. “This is the first time,”Steinhardt told the rooftop audience, “that 12 philanthropists ofthis stature have come together as equal partners.” It represents, hesaid, “the emergence of entrepreneurial philanthropy in the AmericanJewish community.”

For those new to the term, entrepreneurial philanthropy is anewish form of charity that devotees liken to venture capitalism.”Rather than just giving money away, I want to identify a need,identify the social entrepreneurs who are coming up with solutions,and make sure they have enough money to do the work,” said New Yorkinvestment fund manager Alan Slifka, who pioneered the practice inthe 1980s with such innovative projects as the nondenominationalHeschel School and the Abraham Fund for Jewish-Arab coexistence.

“If you look at the venture capitalists of, say, Silicon Valley,they’re in the business of looking ahead at the market trends of thenext 20 years. I want to create the not-for-profit organizations ofthe next 20 years.”

It’s not for the fainthearted, nor for the poor. Critics say thatit amounts to rich people going off and starting their own Jewishorganizations. For the rest of us, it’s a bit like that Ming vase youadmired at Sotheby’s: If you need to ask, you can’t afford it.

Over the past decade, however, it has become one of the mostinfluential trends in Jewish organizational life. Practitionersnumber only a handful — perhaps 10 real players, including Slifkaand Steinhardt, yet they are changing the structure of the Jewishcommunity.

Some examples:

  • Ohio clothier Leslie Wexner. His Wexner Heritage Foundation, which he funds at an estimated $3 million per year, runs tuition-free, two-year study programs for selected Jewish lay leaders — 120 in six cities per year — to raise the literacy of Jewish leadership.
  • California real-estate developer Larry Weinberg. A former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he and his wife, Barbi, in 1984, launched a think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, to change the tone of Middle East debate in Washington.
  • New York cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder. Through his Ronald E. Lauder Foundation and Jewish Renaissance Foundation, he is the main backer of Jewish cultural and educational renewal in Eastern Europe.

In a sense, this is nothing new. Most Jewish humanitarian programsearly in this century were built by a well-heeled few with names suchas Rothschild, Schiff and Rosenwald. After World War I, however,baronial largess largely gave way to the federation system ofcommunity-wide fund raising and decision making.

Now the barons are making a comeback. Why? “My feeling is that theJewish community is becoming more conservative and risk-averse,” saysSteinhardt. “The federations are consensus organizations. They moveglacially slowly in responding to change. So a number of people areseeking new ways to effect change.”

Then, too, Jewish crises are changing. Unlike the challenges ofthe last 50 years — building a state, rescuing postwar survivors,bringing Jews out of Yemen and Russia — the next Jewish crises don’thave clear-cut answers. No one is sure how to cope with intermarriageor how to arrest Jewish illiteracy.

The solutions may emerge from small incubator projects, just whatventure capitalists do best. A handful of projects are underwayalready. Israel Experience Inc., created by whiskey baron CharlesBronfman and run jointly with the United Jewish Appeal, incubates andtests strategies for increasing teen Israel travel as a tool to buildJewish identity. Ma’yan, a New York think tank created by feministactivist Barbara Dobkin, is exploring ways to increase women’sleadership roles in the community. Both are long-term, uphillprojects requiring a strong-willed backer with deep pockets.

Cooperation among the barons was the inevitable next step. Theday-school partnership emerged, insiders say, from a secretivediscussion group that brings together a clutch of the superwealthyabout twice a year to chat informally about the Jewish future:Included are Wexner, Steinhardt, Cleveland’s Morton Mandel, thebrothers Charles and Edgar Bronfman, the brothers Laurence andPreston Tisch, stockbroker Alan Greenberg and a few others.

It was Steinhardt who raised the idea of joining forces to promoteday schools. Wexner, Mandel and the Bronfmans bought in. The othersdidn’t. Steinhardt then recruited other partners to round out hisdozen (one of the 12 is not an individual but the extended family ofNew York UJA-Federation). Steinhardt sees it as the first of manysuch initiatives.

Is this good for the Jews? Not if it replaces federations.Hidebound as they may be, the traditional Jewish bodies at least tryto listen to voices from the grass roots. Entrepreneurs do not.

As leavening in our cake, however, the entrepreneurs can play avital role. “If one thinks of a private foundation having aleadership role in society, think what could happen when five or 10of them get together,” says Jeffrey Solomon, who left the No. 2 jobat New York UJA-Federation last summer to become director of thenewly created Charles and Andrea Bronfman Philanthropies. “They canchange the world.”

J.J. Goldberg is author of “Jewish Power: Inside the AmericanJewish Establishment.” He writes regularly for The JewishJournal.

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