5 Inexpensive Ways To Help You Fund A Brand New Business


Everyone knows jobs are less secure now than they’ve ever been before. In a few years, most of them will be replaced by robots. It’s going to leave a large percentage of the population in trouble, but there is one way to eliminate any problems.

It’s possible to start your own business and nobody will be able to fire you. The only hard part is coming up with enough money to get started. It used to be a lot more expensive, but it’s still not free. Here are a few good options available to you.

1. Get An Unsecured Business Loan

It might be wise to look at unsecured business loans for a couple of reasons. You’ll be under less pressure because nobody will be able to take your home away, which will make you more productive.

You’ll also have less money to work with and it will prevent you from spending it needlessly. You should know it’s much cheaper to start your own venture than it was a couple of decades ago.

2. Build Some Things Yourself

In the tech world, they talk a lot about minimum viable products. It’s basically a product that isn’t quite complete, but it’s enough to get started. This principle can be used in any kind of business.

Let’s say you needed to build a website for your new company. Don’t hire someone to build you an expensive fancy one. Spend a few days learning how to create one yourself that’s capable of getting the job done.

3. Learn How To Negotiate Properly

A business might sell something for a certain price, but it’s hardly ever set in stone. You’ll need to get into the habit of negotiating for everything, which you can learn by reading books.

With a little practice, you’ll become an expert in the art of getting discounts. The money you save on anything related to your new business will come in extremely useful for things like marketing.

4. Focus On A Few Specific Things

Large companies don’t start out offering every service in the world. It sometimes takes decades until they reach that stage. If your business offers lots of services it will increase your expenses.

Start by offering a couple of things at the most. When you have fewer areas to focus on you’ll spend less money in so many ways. Let your business grow over time as you begin to bring in more money.

5. Secondhand Furniture And Appliances

Nobody would expect you to buy a secondhand mattress, but you shouldn’t be scared of other used items. You can easily build most of your business by buying secondhand furniture and appliances.

Do you really think anyone is going to care it’s not brand new? Once your business is profitable you can splurge on more expensive things. In the early days look for deals wherever you can find them.

You’ll Be Ecstatic In A Few Years

The first couple of years will be hard, but you’ll be ecstatic once the money starts rolling in. You will worry a lot less about everything being snatched away from you because you’ll be in control of your own destiny.

Orthodox lobbyist: After Charleston, black communities need same security funding as Jews


In reporting on federal funding for securing nonprofits, we’ve noted, almost as a matter of boilerplate, that the vast majority of the funding – over 90 percent – goes to Jewish institutions.

There are several reasons for this:

– Jewish groups, including the Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America, have led lobbying for the funding, which has ranged from $15 to $25 million a year since the program was launched in 2005. As such, these groups are the most familiar with how to go about applying for the funds.

– Jewish institutions are increasingly vulnerable.

– And finally, from what I’ve heard – virtually no one else asks.

Wednesday, in the Washington Post, and after last week’s mass killing at a black church in Charleston, S.C., the Orthodox Union’s Nathan Diament said that should change. Communities at risk should avail themselves of the program, he said – adding that this will require increased funding,

“In light of last week’s terrible shooting at Emanuel, it seems even more critical for Congress to not only rapidly approve the [U.S. Department of Homeland Security] bill so this aid is available to all at-risk nonprofits, but also increase its funding so that the program can adequately serve all communities in need,” Diament said.

Diament also suggested that other communities adopt the Secure Communities Network that the national Jewish community has developed in recent years, establishing training templates to prevent attacks and to mitigate violence when they occur.

Congress members request funding for U.S.-Israel energy and water development


A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers requested $2 million in funding for a U.S.-Israel energy and water development program.

Led by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), 106 members of Congress joined in the request last week for the United States-Israel Energy Cooperation Program, which began in 2006. The funds would be added to the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

The program, which deals with energy security and independence, leverages small grants for private sector innovation. Ongoing projects include funding for research and development in energy technologies and efficiency in the American and Israeli private sectors. The projects involve hydroelectric energy production, the lowering of energy consumption for water treatment, wind energy storage, reduction of fuel consumption and noise control.

L.A.’s financial support of Israel’s election


The Los Angeles dollars—or shekels—spent may not have approached the amount Hollywood throws around for U.S. elections, but Jews in Los Angeles nevertheless managed to funnel about $175,000 into Israel’s party primaries this election cycle.

Israel’s primaries ended in January with Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu blowing out his rival Danny Danon, and Labor’s Isaac Herzog soundly defeating Shelly Yachimovich under the Zionist Union coalition, in which Labor is paired with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah. Israeli campaign finance law forbids foreign donations during the general parliamentary election—scheduled for March 17—but allows for very limited contributions during the primary season.

In this election’s primaries, Israeli candidates raised about $1.4 million in the United States, with New York donors contributing more than in any other state. In Los Angeles, candidates raised about $162,000, or 11 percent of the national total. And of that, Likud candidates—primarily Netanyahu and Danon—dominated the fundraising field, taking in nearly $124,000, or 70 percent of the total.

Netanyahu led the pack among the candidates, raising about $42,000 in Los Angeles; Danon brought in about $34,000, and other Likud candidates including Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein and Gilad Arden raised between about $11,000 and $15,000.

The only politician outside Likud to top $10,000 was Nahman Shai, a member of the Labor party and the Knesset’s Deputy Speaker, who raised more than $15,000. Abraham Dichter of Kadima raised about $8,000.

The campaign finance data, which is publically available on the Israeli comptroller’s website, shows that nearly 40 people in the Greater Los Angeles area sent funds to Israeli candidates this round, with most donations ranging in the thousands of dollars, and only a handful topping $10,000. Although the donations logged by the comptroller online date back to January 2013 at the earliest, the vast majority of the contributions came in late 2014 and early 2015, and were applied to candidates who ran in this election cycle’s party primaries.

Lawrence Feigen, an executive at Windsor Healthcare Rehabilitation, gave about $14,500 to three different candidates, all Likud—Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Edelstein. According to Federal Election Commission data, Feigen’s U.S. political donations over the years have been to both Democratic and Republican politicians and groups, including Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.), and current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK).

Feigen wrote to the Journal in an email that he’s been donating his money and time for decades to causes he believes in, including American and Israeli politics. “I generally (although certainly not always) agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s views,” Feigen wrote. Asked whether he knows if his political donations have made a difference, he responded: “I honestly have no idea what kind of impact my donations possibly can make. I hope they help.”

Shlomo Rechnitz, the local mega-philanthropist who for a brief time owned Doheny Meats in 2013, which he purchased as an attempt to rectify the kosher meat company after it was wracked with scandal, confirmed to the Journal that he gave about $11,500 to Netanyahu. Rechnitz too has given to a number of both Democratic and Republican politicians and groups, including former Congressman Henry Waxman, Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and a joint fundraiser for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).

Other notable local donors include Adam Milstein, a co-founder of the Israeli American Council; Richard Sandler, executive vice president of the Milken Family Foundation; real estate businessman and philanthropist Stanley Black; and Steve Goldberg, who ran an unsuccessful campaign last year to replace Mort Klein as the president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), and donated $4,000 to Danon’s campaign in January.

Goldberg was on the ZOA’s national board from 2008 to 2014 and became the board’s vice chair in 2010. He was also the head of ZOA’s Los Angeles chapter until its closure in 2014. On Monday, Goldberg was in Israel for the election. He recently became a dual citizen, and because Israel’s voting laws prohibit absentee ballots, Goldberg was among the Israeli citizens who flew there from the United States just to vote—in Goldberg’s case for Netanyahu, whom he initially opposed in favor of Danon in Likud’s party primaries.

“I found Danon to be courageous,” Goldberg said, referring to Danon’s outspoken opposition to Netanyahu’s handling of the Gaza war last summer. “He spoke up, put himself in political peril and risked his career.”

Peter Medding, a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem with expertise in Israeli politics, said that the amount candidates raised for the primaries in Los Angeles were “just symbolic” and said that, as in an American election, $175,000 has very little impact.

“It’s peanuts here too,” Medding said. Asked whether the $42,000 that went to Netanyahu could have any discernible impact, he said it would not. He added, though, that in party primaries, name recognition is a key factor for lesser-known candidates who need to pay for television ads across the country. Danny Danon, for example, who remains a vocal Netanyahu opponent yet has failed thus far to gain enough traction within Likud to become one of its leaders, nearly matched Netanyahu’s fundraising in Los Angeles. It didn’t help, though, in his bid to represent Likud in the general election.

For Netanyahu, on the other hand, visibility is not a problem.

“The amount of money that [Sheldon] Adelson spends on newspapers that promote Bibi every morning exceeds that by a function of 50 or 100,” Medding said, referring to Israel Hayom, the free daily funded by Adelson that is pro-Netanyahu.

Although the money Israeli candidates raised from Los Angeles for this year’s election cycle may ultimately prove inconsequential, Angelenos are sure to continue to be a source of funds for aspiring and established Israeli politicos.

“Los Angeles has been a good collection area for Israeli candidates,” Medding said. “There are generous donors there. People are used to giving money to political campaigns; they give to Israel as well as to Waxman.”

And for local Jews like Goldberg who are passionate about Israel, although a few thousand dollars here or there may not prove to change much, and represents only a “modest commitment”, it’s a commitment nonetheless.

“If there are people I believe in, I’ll do whatever I can to help,” Goldberg said. “One of those ways is money.”

Where does American funding for Israel go?


Where does American Jewish communal funding for Israel go? Do we have a right to know? 

As an American Jew who advocates for a two-state solution and Israeli democracy, I often hear that if I want to advocate for my vision of Israel’s future, I have to move to Israel. If I wanted to sit on my couch, share “Stand With Us” Facebook statuses, and cheerlead for the right-wing Likud party, there would be no pushback. But dare to support an end to the occupation of the West Bank, or to express our belief that it’s vital for Israel for to live up to its founding principles of democracy and civil rights, the response is clear: either hop on an El Al flight tomorrow, or kindly keep your opinions to yourself.

Defenders of this kind of hypocrisy argue that it’s justifiable because the beliefs of groups like J Street are held only by a tiny, anomalous minority. In fact, the opposite is true. Eighty percent of American Jews want a two-state solution. That same 80% supports some level of reduction of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. Do four out of every five American Jews need to move to Israel before they are allowed to express these opinions in public?

Why do our communal leaders ignore this majority? J Street U President Benjy Cannon has a theory. Quoted in a recent article, Cannon suggests that if Jewish communal leaders actually engaged with Americans who shared our vision of Israel’s future, they’d be forced to “acknowledge the need to talk about the occupation; to admit that they are not living up the values of their own community. And they’d rather not face that.” 

One way to avoid facing up to the truth is to complicate and obscure it. I’d like to believe our communal support for Israel goes toward causes that reflect Jewish values and a concern for Israel’s long-term security and legitimacy – and not to the occupation. I cannot know for sure, though, as most Jewish communal philanthropy is not transparent. And where there is transparency, it is sometimes very clear that this funding contradicts our values and Israel’s interests.

Growing up, I never gave much thought to stuffing my tzedakah money into the blue Jewish National Fund boxes at my BBYO meetings and synagogue. I thought they were just iconic symbols of righteous charity; I probably should’ve looked at the Green Line-less map of Israel on the side of the box more closely. Last year,  investigative journalist Raviv Drucker uncovered a list of 14 projects the JNF secretly funded in the settlements. Those blue boxes have real consequences for democracy in Israel. Beyond the JNF, Rabbi Jill Jacobs showed how $6 million dollars of American tax write-offs to non-profits funded settlement growth. And week, Eric Goldstein published an article outlining even more tax-deductible charities currently supporting settlement expansion.

That funding is no accident – it is part and parcel of long-term policy and ideology among some key communal institutions. At a recent panel on Jewish Agency-funded study abroad programs, Chairman Natan Sharansky told students at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly to see the controversial West Bank settlement Ariel “in the same light” as Tel Aviv. Indeed, his organization now funds a MASA program at Ariel University, routinely sending American gap year students into the heart of the occupation. 

With negotiations nowhere in sight and the status quo as entrenched as ever, supporters of Israel who believe the conflict can only be solved with two states have enough to despair about. That’s what makes this abdication of responsibility sting even more.  

We need the leaders of the organized Jewish community to answer these questions on behalf of their organizations. If continued settlement expansion doesn’t align with their values, as 80% of American Jews say it doesn’t, a public statement to that effect would be a great first step in demonstrating the moral courage and responsible leadership that this issue has been desperately lacking. Beyond this, our leaders should be crystal clear about which side of the Green Line they have been sending the money we contribute – and about where they intend to send it going forward.

Until we have transparency, we American Jews cannot understand the full scope of the role we are playing in the situation in Israel today.

As American Jews who proudly support Israel and proudly oppose the occupation, we firmly believe our community must wrestle with, acknowledge, and ultimately act to change its complicity in policies and actions that have made Israel less democratic and less secure. We hope all who agree will join us in asking for transparency, responsibility, and change. Now is the time to act. And you don’t need to hop on a flight in order to do so.

Tough congressional language limits Obama’s Egypt options


When it comes to foreign assistance, American law couldn’t be clearer: A coup d’etat suspends funding, period.

But that directive, which has persisted for years in federal appropriations bills, is now clashing with another congressional priority: the apparent desire to foster an alternative to Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s democratically elected Islamist president who was removed from power this week by the Egyptian military.

In recent months, Congress has intimated that it would be happier if his secular foes in the military were running the country. But the law ties Congress’ hands.

On July 3, President Obama said he would “review” what the coup means for American aid.

“We are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsi and suspend the Egyptian constitution,” Obama said in a statement. “I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.”

Following mass demonstrations from an increasing restive population, Morsi was removed this week and replaced with the country’s chief justice, Adli Mansour, in the latest development to roil Egypt and a region already on edge from Syria’s ongoing civil war.

The United States provides some $1.8 billion in aid to Egypt annually, most of it defense assistance conditioned on Egypt’s observance of the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Congressional leaders cited those circumstances in suggesting that the Obama administration work with the interim government.

But other lawmakers, while noting the flaws in Morsi’s leadership and the popular uprising that led to his ouster, underscored that the language in the appropriations bill left virtually no wiggle room.

“Egypt’s military leaders say they have no intent or desire to govern, and I hope they make good on their promise,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the longtime chairman of the Senate’s foreign operations appropriation subcommittee. “In the meantime, our law is clear: U.S. aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree. As we work on the new budget, my committee also will review future aid to the Egyptian government as we wait for a clearer picture.”

Unlike many other spending provisions, the language regarding a coup d’etat does not include a presidential waiver. That leaves the Obama administration three options for working around the provision: Obtain congressional agreement to add a waiver within the next few weeks; accelerate the democratic replacement of Egypt’s interim government; or use executive privilege to work around the lack of a congressional waiver.

The first two options are unlikely. Congress can barely agree on a budget, let alone a waiver on a sensitive issue like Egypt. And with Egypt already roiling with violence, its military would be loath to facilitate the return of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to power through a hastily arranged election.

The third option — exercising the prerogative of the president to advance foreign policy — could undercut U.S. credibility overseas, conveying an impression Obama has tried to correct: that the United States supports the powers it prefers, regardless of the will of the people.

Obama appears to be hoping for the democracy option. In conversations with Egyptian officials, Obama’s national security team “emphasized the importance of a quick and responsible return of full authority to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan told JTA.

Ahmadinejad seeks strategic axis with Egypt


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the first visit to Cairo by an Iranian leader in more than three decades, called for a strategic alliance with Egypt and said he had offered the cash-strapped Arab state a loan, but drew a cool response.

Ahmadinejad said outside forces were trying to prevent a rapprochement between the Middle East's two most populous nations, at odds since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution and Egypt's signing of a peace treaty with Israel in the same year.

“We must all understand that the only option is to set up this alliance because it is in the interests of the Egyptian and Iranian peoples and other nations of the region,” the official MENA news agency quoted him in remarks to Egyptian journalists published on Wednesday.

The two countries have not restored diplomatic ties since Egypt overthrew its long term leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but its first Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, gave Ahmadinejad a red-carpet welcome on Tuesday to a summit of Islamic nations.

“There are those striving to prevent these two great countries from coming together despite the fact that the region's problems require this meeting, especially the Palestinian question,” Ahmadinejad said.

Egypt's foreign minister played down the significance of the visit, telling Reuters the Iranian leader, one of several heads of state to get the red-carpet treatment, was in Cairo chiefly for the Islamic summit beginning on Wednesday, “so it's just a normal procedure. That's all.”

He had earlier reassured Gulf Arab countries that Egypt would not sacrifice their security.

Egypt's leading Sunni Muslim scholar scolded Ahmadinejad on Tuesday when he visited the historic al-Azhar mosque and university over Tehran's attitude to its Gulf Arab neighbors and attempts to spread Shi'ite influence in Sunni countries.

In his meeting with Egyptian reporters, MENA said Ahmadinejad denied accusations Iran was interfering in Bahrain, where a Shi'ite majority lives under minority Sunni rule.

Three Egyptians and a Syrian were detained on suspicion of trying to attack the Iranian president at another mosque, security sources said. They were held overnight but released on bail of 500 Egyptian pounds ($75) each on Wednesday.

Video footage shot by a Turkish cameraman appeared to show a bearded man trying twice to throw a shoe at Ahmadinejad as he was mobbed by well-wishers on leaving the Hussein mosque.

The president was not hit but was hustled to his car by security men, stopping to wave before he was driven away.

The security sources said the three Egyptians held were all members of the al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, a hardline Islamist group that took up arms against the state in the 1990s but has moved into mainstream politics since Mubarak was toppled.

In the Arab world, throwing a shoe is a serious insult. An Iraqi journalist hurled a shoe at then-U.S. President George W. Bush during a news conference in Baghdad in 2008, forcing Bush to duck to avoid being hit.

Al-Ahram daily quoted Ahmadinejad as saying in an interview that Iran had offered to lend money to Egypt despite being under international economic sanctions over its nuclear program.

“I have said previously that we can offer a big credit line to the Egyptian brothers, and many services,” he said. He did not say if there had been any response.

The president said the Iranian economy had been affected by sanctions but it is a “great economy” that was witnessing “positive matters”, saying exports were increasing gradually.

The United States and its Western allies have sought to choke off Iran's vital oil exports by embargoing imports from the Islamic republic and cutting its access to shipping, insurance and finance.

Egypt disclosed on Tuesday that its foreign reserves had fallen below the $15 billion level that covers three months' imports despite recent deposits by Qatar to support it.

Tourism has been badly hit by unrest since the uprising that toppled authoritarian Mubarak, and investment has stalled due to the ensuing political and economic uncertainty.

Ahmadinejad said there had been scant progress on restoring ties between the two countries.

“No change happened in the last two years, but discussions between us developed and grew, and His Excellency President Mohamed Morsi visited Iran and met us, as he met the Iranian foreign minister. And we previously contacted Egypt to know about what is happening with Syrian affairs,” he said.

One persistent obstacle to ties in Cairo's eyes was the naming of a street in Tehran after an Egyptian Islamist militant who led the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, who signed the treaty with Israel.

“On the question of the street name or its removal, these are matters that will be dealt with gradually,” Ahmadinejad said.

Writing by Paul Taylor; editing by Philippa Fletcher

VP hopeful Paul Ryan meets with Sheldon Adelson


Paul Ryan met with Sheldon Adelson, a major giver to Republicans in the effort to defeat President Obama, just days after being tapped by presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney as his running mate.

Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, met Tuesday with Adelson and other major Republican donors at the casino magnate’s Venetian hotel in Las Vegas.

The New York Times reported that the private meeting was geared in part at assessing the foreign policy views of Ryan, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee who is better known for his tough proposals to slash government spending.

Romney named Ryan as his vice presidential choice on Saturday in what was seen in part as a bid to consolidate grass-roots conservative support for the ticket.

Adelson, perhaps the biggest single American donor to pro-Israel causes, has pledged up to $100 million to defeat Obama.

Private schools chalk it up to federal dollars


It’s not unusual for elementary school students at Sinai Akiba Academy to walk into class and be greeted with the following message: “Dear scientists, today we’re going to look at our mealworms under the microscopes.”

The idea is that by identifying kids as writers, readers and scientists, they actually take on that role. It’s part of a classroom philosophy called “Responsive Classroom” that has transformed the school in recent years, according to Shelley Lawrence, lower school director at Sinai Akiba.

The message greeting pupils at the private day school could easily come with an asterisk: “Made possible, in part, by public tax dollars.”

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which became known as No Child Left Behind, allows faith-based schools to receive services funded by federal dollars. Local Jewish education leaders said they tend to benefit most from its provisions for professional development and supplemental instruction for students in need of academic improvement in core curriculum areas.

A third item that allowed private schools to upgrade technology ended after last year. Some local schools used it to add iPads, SMART Boards and video cameras to their schools.

BJE: Builders of Jewish Education worked with 20 area Jewish day schools to secure more than $1 million worth of services through this law, said Miriam Prum Hess, BJE’s director for the Center for Excellence in Day School Education.

“Our goal has been to maximize and make sure that our schools can get the full amount of the funds. In the last four years, we have really been successful in doing that,” she said.

Public dollars for private schools?

“One of the provisions of the act was the equitable participation of kids regardless of what school they were in, whether they were in public school or private school,” Prum Hess explained. “The funding never goes directly to the private schools, but the services go to the students and the teachers in private schools.”

Here’s how it works.

The amount of assistance a school receives for professional development is based on a per capita allocation related to its student population. BJE pools those funds for its schools to offer workshops and other training that would be too expensive for any single day school to provide. Individual schools can do things on their own as well.

Things get more complicated when it comes to improving academic achievement. Funds for the added assistance are generated based on the number of students whose families and home public school districts are below certain poverty levels. Those pupils who actually receive the services must live within the boundaries of a poor school and test at a certain level to determine eligibility, Prum Hess said.

Officials at Los Angeles Unified School District, which handles the money for any services rendered — as well as the educators for much of the supplemental instruction — said the value in these two areas is about $12 million for all of the private schools, Jewish and non-Jewish, with which it works.

Erica Rothblum, head of school at Beth Hillel Day School in Valley Village, said she considers the help in professional development to be “one of the most instrumental things that has impacted our school.”

Instead of having to send teachers to the East Coast to learn about Responsive Classrooms at a cost of $700 each, she was able to have all of her instructors attend training sessions here through BJE. And the school also has been able to adopt Singapore Math, which requires a heavy dose of professional development.

After three years in the new math program, the results have been tangible. “Our test scores in terms of math are very high,” Rothblum said. “With the sixth-graders, they’re all placing in the highest math classes. … They’re very well prepared for middle school.”

At Sinai Akiba, Responsive Classrooms, in which kids also gather for morning meetings to start the day, has had a similar effect.

“It’s had a profound impact on our school in the way we look at children and the way that we teach children and talk to children,” Lawrence said. “Without that funding, we would never have been able to get that type of teacher training.”

Administrators at both schools said they had fewer than 10 students who qualified for the academic help and counseling last year.

One catch to all of this is that the funds cannot be used to provide services related to Judaism. The teaching of Hebrew is permitted because it is a foreign language, Prum Hess said.

That’s important, according to Eugene Volokh, a professor of First Amendment law at the UCLA School of Law.

“There have got to be assurances that it’s not going to be used for religious purposes,” he said.

As for the issue of tax dollars making their way to private schools, Rothblum said it’s simply a matter of money following the child.

Prum Hess went further, stating that while the parents of students at Jewish day schools are making a choice to leave the public system, in many ways they may be sacrificing tremendously financially to pursue an education grounded in the values of the Jewish community.

“Forty-six percent of kids in day school are on financial aid, and it’s really important to recognize that not all kids in Jewish day school come from wealthy families,” Prum Hess said. “It is called No Child Left Behind — regardless of what school is best for that child. The ultimate goal is helping the child attend the school that best suits their need.”

One LAUSD official agreed that the point is to work together to raise the overall level of education and that these provisions and services benefiting Jewish day school students help with that.

“They’re all students in our community,” said Vivian Ekchian, chief human resources officer for the district. “It’s in the best interest of our state to elevate education [to] the highest level, regardless of where they are getting instruction. We do not compete with schools. We all have one goal, which is to deliver the best instruction possible for the youth in our state.”

Sarah Silverman’s ‘Indecent Proposal’ to Sheldon Adelson and what that means for modern politics


By the time you read this, you probably will have watched Sarah Silverman in her underwear, demonstrating a lesbian sex act with her dog.

Because that’s the way politics works these days.

Silverman wrote and stars in a short video, called “Scissor Sheldon,” posted at scissorsheldon.com, in which she offers to, hmm, make casino magnate Sheldon Adelson very happy if he donates $100 million to the campaign of Barack Obama, instead of to Mitt Romney.

Adelson, the owner of The Venetian hotel and casino and one of the world’s richest men, has declared he is willing to spend that much money to help get the Republican candidate elected president.

“Sheldon, I have a proposal for you, and, I’m serious, look at me,” Silverman says to the camera. What follows — her proposal — is not really quotable in this newspaper, though, trust me, this video will introduce more young people to politics than student council.

The short video went online on the afternoon of July 16. By the time I saw it, early the next morning, it already had 11,000 “likes.” Major news outlets were covering it. It was wallpapered across my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Viral? Viruses could only wish.

The enormously popular, self-described “Jewess” comedian has used satirical political video before to great effect. In 2008, she launched The Great Schlep, urging young Jews to go to Florida to convince their grandparents to vote for Obama.

Story continues after the jump. (Warning: Explicit video)

Video courtesy of SchlepLabs

This time, she has once again teamed up with activists Ari Wallach and Mik Moore, co-founders of The Great Schlep. They run a pro-Obama super PAC with the anodyne name the Jewish Council for Education & Research (JCER). Its main backer is Alexander Soros, the 27-year-old New York University grad who also happens to be the son of George Soros.

“The most important political office is that of private citizen,” Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis once said — and his quote is the opening line on the Web page explaining JCER.

Wallach and Moore say their goal is to juice the campaigns of people they believe in by inspiring young Jewish voters to get involved.

“JCER is motivated by a deep love for the Jewish community and by a desire to ensure that Jews have access to accurate information as they engage in the electoral process,” the mission statement says.

For prior generations, that might have meant walking precincts, door to door, delivering speeches to Hadassah groups or passing out bumper stickers. Now, you submit your ideas on how to support Obama by using social media, humor and celebrity, and the super PAC picks the ones it likes best — like Silverman’s — and then produces and disseminates it. The Great Schlep generated 300 million impressions — at a cost of next to nothing. That’s a lot of precinct walking.

Merging politics with sex and celebrity used to be something only politicians did, after they were elected. Moore and Wallach have discovered it works even better before. Their successful campaigns leap far beyond the Jewish community and create national conversations. In the case of “Scissor Sheldon,” Moore said he hopes it will lead to a conversation on the role of unbridled political contributions in American elections and the outsized impact a billionaire like Adelson can have.

But here’s what makes me squirm — and it’s not at all Silverman’s offer — which, in her signature style, comes across as more adorable than raunchy.

It’s their relentless focus on one man — Adelson. The truth behind Adelson’s giving is that the entire system of unlimited, unaccountable campaign financing from so-called 527 organizations to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 is the single greatest threat to our democracy. Everybody who takes part — from Adelson to the secretive billionaire Tea Party funders, the Koch Brothers, Obama, Romney and also Alexander Soros — is part of the problem.

How is Adelson worse than Alexander Soros? At least Adelson steps out of the shadows and shoots off his mouth — as when he told jewishjournal.com that his former crush, Newt Gingrich, had “reached the end of the line.” Adelson makes his agenda clear. Politically, he and I may be far apart — but he is no hidden puppet master.

But the “Scissor Sheldon” Web site paints him to be exactly that. The spare site offers up a single, rather uncomplimentary photo of Adelson. On the page under the heading “Who Is the $100 Million Man?” you can find a 10-point list of all of Adelson’s supposed transgressions. It paints Adelson in an entirely one-dimensional way — a caricature — and lets others who dump swill in the political trough off the hook.

I get why Silverman chose to address Adelson. It’s personal, the way Silverman looks her landsman in the eye. This is like The Great Schlep, and he’s Super Zayde.  Fortunately, we American Jews live in a time and in a country where we can feel perfectly safe and secure attacking one another using Der Stürmer — like iconography. Yes, “Scissor Sheldon” will provide a Jewish National Fund-sized forest of kindling to ignite every Jew-hater out there — but those freaks will hate us anyway.

My greater concern is that unlike, say, Stephen Colbert’s masterful Colbert super PAC shtick, in which he used the same broken laws to create his own unaccountable super PAC, the “Scissor Sheldon” bit won’t go beyond Adelson.

In fact, by the time you read this, this week’s big viral campaign may already be last week’s news.

Unless, of course, Sheldon Adelson says “yes.”

Israeli nature reserve designated as UNESCO site


UNESCO voted to designate a nature reserve in northern Israel as a World Heritage Site.

The culture and science arm of the United Nations gave the Nahal Me’arot and Carmel Caves Nature Reserve the distinction last Friday, according to an Israeli government news release.

Located near the northern port city of Haifa, the nature reserve is the site of a group of prehistoric caves where early humans lived for millennia, according to the release. Israel has seven other World Heritage Sites, including Jerusalem’s Old City and Masada.

Also last week, UNESCO named the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem a World Heritage Site and listed it in Palestine, a decision that drew criticism from the United States.

Senate passes farm bill, rejects full SNAP funding


The U.S. Senate passed the Farm Bill, whose final version some Jewish organizations had expressed dismay over because it did not include full funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps. 

The bill, which passed Thursday with bipartisan support in a 64-35 vote, gives price support and crop insurance programs to farmers and food assistance for low-income families.

Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, were pushing for full funding for SNAP in the final bill.

An amendment sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would have restored $4.5 billion to the SNAP program was defeated Tuesday by a nearly identical margin of 66-33.

Rabbi David Saperstein, head of the Religion Action Center, said in a press statement that the rejection of the amendment “is deeply disturbing and does not reflect our highest values as a nation. SNAP makes a crucial difference for millions of Americans, all of whom need the helping hand of government to help them lead the lives they seek to live.” 

“The Farm Bill simultaneously restricts food purchases by cutting $4.5 billion from SNAP,” he said in a statement. “This will result in, on average, approximately 500,000 households receiving an estimated $90 less in SNAP benefits each month. Having lived on the food stamp budget before as part of our Food Stamp Challenge, I know how scant the food on the current SNAP allotment can be.”

The legislation now moves to the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives where it is expected that conservative members will call for additional cuts in food stamp programs.

Panetta announces $70 million for Iron Dome near term


The Obama administration said it would rush $70 million to Israel in order to enhance its Iron Dome missile defense system, with more money in the pipeline.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday after meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, that he was directed by President Obama to meet Israel’s needs for the system as indicated by Barak.

“My goal is to ensure Israel has the funding it needs each year to produce these batteries that can protect its citizens,” Panetta said. “That is why going forward over the next three years, we intend to request additional funding for Iron Dome based on an annual assessment of Israeli security requirements against an evolving threat.”

Legislation under consideration in Congress, shaped in consultation with administration officials, would deliver $680 million to Israel for the system, which earlier this year successfully intercepted rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

The system was funded in part by $205 million transferred by the United States to Israel in 2011.

Barak in a statement said he “greatly appreciated” the announcement, adding that “This additional funding for the Iron Dome system comes at a crucial time for the Israeli people.”

Barak is in Washington to discuss with Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton efforts to keep Iran from obatining a nuclear weapon. Israel has suggested it could strike soon, seeing Iran as close to achieving the capability of building a nuclear weapon. The Obama administration wants Israel to roll back any strike plans while it pursues a policy of sanctions and diplomacy to get Iran to make its nuclear plans more transparent. Iran denies plans to make a nuclear weapon.

Israel would likely seek to shore up its defenses against attacks on its borders ahead of any conflict with Iran, as Iran would be likely to pressure surrogates in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to attack.

The American israel Public Affairs Committee also praised the Obama administration for its announcement.

“This funding will enable the Jewish state to better protect its citizens, thus preventing a wider conflict,” AIPAC said in a statement. “Missile defense programs are a cornerstone of U.S.-Israel cooperative programs. The two allies work together to develop innovative technologies that advance the security of both nations.”

House subcommittee OKs $680 million for Iron Dome


A U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services subcommittee authorized $680 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

The approval came during the Strategic Forces subcommittee’s markup on Thursday of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. A markup is when a subcommittee votes to refer a bill to the full committee; the act in question authorizes defense spending.

The Obama administration gave Israel $205 million in 2009 on top of its $3 billion defense assistance to help launch the system. President Obama’s original budget proposal had no funding request for the missile defense system, but in recent weeks Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, citing its success in repelling barrages of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip earlier this year, said the administration would agree to additional funding.

In March, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and chairman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced the Iron Dome Support Act, which authorized the president to provide additional assistance to the missile defense program. The legislation has garnered 74 co-sponsors.

Following the Strategic Forces subcommittee’s approval of the $680 million, Berman released a statement noting that “Iron Dome is a game changer, saving innocent lives and protecting Israelis.”

“Securing additional funding to deploy additional Iron Dome batteries is an Israeli necessity, an American priority, and a strategic imperative,” Berman said in the statement.

Napolitano talks security funding cuts with Jewish leaders


Janet Napolitano, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, met with leaders of the New York Jewish federation to discuss security for nonprofits in the wake of substantial funding cuts.

“DHS recognizes the important role the nonprofit community has in our homeland security efforts,” Napolitano said in a statement after meeting at the White House with the UJA-Federation delegation. “We work closely with nonprofit organizations throughout the country—including the faith-based community—to share information, offer training, conduct risk assessments and provide resources to give the nonprofit sector the tools to address threats and help keep communities safe.”

Napolitano discussed the recent slash in funding for such programs, from $19 million last year to $10 million this year. The bulk of nonprofits receiving the money are Jewish.

“DHS sustained funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program despite significant overall cuts to grants in order to support target hardening and physical security enhancements at nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attack,” she said in the statement, adding that nonprofits would now also be able to apply for funds through a different program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

William Daroff, the director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, said his group appreciated Napolitano’s “continuing recognition that since Sept. 11th, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been victims of an alarming number of threats and attacks.

Daroff said his group would continue to seek “adequate” funding for the programs.

Other groups lobbying for Homeland Security funding for security for nonprofits are the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America.

Komen reverses course on Planned Parenthood, but supporters still hurting


It took just hours for the protests against Susan G. Komen for the Cure to begin, and they quickly took on the fury and form of a full-blown movement.

Online petitions were started. Calls poured forth like an avalanche to withhold donations from the organization for its de-funding of Planned Parenthood, and money was pledged to Parenthood to make up for it. And on Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube, the shock and anger was palpable.

And then, in barely three days, it was over.

Komen, which supports advocacy and research to find a cure for breast cancer, announced Friday that it was reversing its decision Tuesday to suspend funding for Planned Parenthood. The organization gets money from Komen for breast cancer screening and other breast-health services for low-income, uninsured and under-insured women. But Planned Parenthood also provides birth control and abortion services, which has made it a target of attacks from Republicans in Congress.

“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities,” Komen for the Cure’s founder and chief executive, Nancy Brinker, said in a statement Friday morning. The foundation is named for Brinker’s sister, a Jewish woman who died of breast cancer in 1980.

The widespread outrage that Komen’s initial move sparked in the Jewish world and beyond is a sign not just of the intensity of the passions surrounding breast cancer advocacy, but also of the perils of allowing political considerations to influence public health policies.

With its popular Race for the Cure events and ubiquitous pink ribbons, Komen has established breast cancer awareness as a cultural touchstone, in the process become one of the Jewish world’s favorite charities. Since its founding in 1982, it has raised more than $1 billion to fight the disease, a cause that has endeared the organization to countless Jewish women. Ashkenazi women are 10 times more likely than Americans generally to carry a genetic mutation that makes them susceptible to breast cancer. In Israel, breast cancer is the leading disease among women.

Komen has been a nonpartisan cause, and its move on Tuesday to drop Planned Parenthood, which is under congressional investigation for allegedly using government money to fund abortions, was seen as an effort to avoid problems with donors.

But the blowback to that move ended up being even more of a problem for Komen.

The National Council for Jewish Women accused Komen of putting “politics before women’s health.” The Reform Religious Action Center said the decision was “directly and unfairly threatening the health and safety of women.” The Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs said Komen appeared to be “caving in to political pressure.” And Hadassah, which partnered with Komen to organize the first Race for the Cure event in Israel in 2010, said it was “disappointed” that the controversy was distracting from the objective of promoting women’s health.

On Friday, after Komen reversed itself, the president of Hadassah, Marcie Natan, said, “Komen should never again allow this type of controversy to erode the integrity of its well-known and much-admired name in fundraising for breast cancer treatment research and awareness.”

Many of groups that had criticized Komen earlier in the week praised it on Friday for doing the right thing even as they warned that the fallout from the controversy may have some lingering effect.

“I think people are just going to be very wary going forward,” said Nancy Kaufman, the NCJW’s CEO. “People will be watching. I think they will still organize Race for the Cure, maybe a little less enthusiastically.”

Komen’s initial decision to break with Planned Parenthood was made, the organization said, as a result of a policy that prohibited it from supporting groups under federal investigation. But critics claimed that the group had instituted the rule specifically to exclude Planned Parenthood.

Komen vehemently denied the charge, but several news reports suggested that the move was driven by Komen’s new senior vice president for public policy, Karen Handel, a vehemently pro-life former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who has said she opposes the mission of Planned Parenthood. Komen’s top public health official resigned in protest over the decision.

Brinker, Komen’s founder and a Texas Republican and former Republican Jewish Coalition leader who had been honored in December by the Reform movement for her breast cancer work, labored to contain the fallout.

In a YouTube video posted Thursday, she first defended the decision as part of a wider overhaul of granting guidelines. By Friday morning, she had reversed course entirely, apologizing for the decision and promising that Planned Parenthood would remain eligible to apply for future grants.

“We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood,” Brinker said. “They were not. Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.”

Brinkner ended her statement with a plea to “help us move past this issue.”

But even for some of the group’s longtime supporters, that may prove difficult.

“I think that they really damaged their credibility, and I hope that they can clean themselves up,” said Rani Garfinkle, a longtime Jewish community activist who participated in several Race for the Cure events, including the inaugural Jerusalem race.

“I’m not sure I won’t seriously reconsider how I give my money,” Garfinkle said. “But it remains to be seen.”

Komen foundation cuts funding to Planned Parenthood


The Susan B. Komen for the Cure foundation cut funding for Planned Parenthood breast cancer testing.

The foundation said the decision, which was announced Tuesday, was prompted by its ban on dealing with groups under investigation in Congress.

Planned Parenthood’s defenders say the congressional investigation is based on debunked allegations that it misuses federal funds.

Planned Parenthood had joined with Komen in providing preventative breast exams for low-income women.

The National Council of Jewish Women on Wednesday accused Komen of caving into pressure from right-wing groups, noting that such groups oppose Planned Parenthood for the abortion services it provides.

“Komen’s action puts politics before women’s health, placing the foundation in the same company as those who seek to defund Planned Parenthood altogether as part of anti-choice agenda and in complete disregard for women’s welfare,” NCJW said.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also said that because of the decision, she would no longer support the Komen foundation.

Komen was founded by Nancy Brinker, a prominent Texas Jewish Republican activist, in her sister’s memory.

Miriam Adelson gives $5 million to Gingrich Super PAC


Miriam Adelson, the wife of casino and hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson, has donated $5 million to a group supporting Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination.

The donation matches one given earlier this month by her husband to Winning Our Future, an independent committee, or Super PAC, that is run by former Gingrich associates, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal citing GOP sources. Major media outlets confirmed the report late Monday.

The funding comes just days after Gingrich scored an upset in the South Carolina primary and ahead of a key primary in Florida on Jan. 31.

Super PACs can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and other groups, as well as individuals, and indirectly support a political candidate. They cannot by law coordinate with the candidate’s official campaign.

Miriam Adelson, an Israeli by birth, is a doctor who runs two non-profit drug treatment and research centers in Nevada and Israel.

Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., is worth more than $21 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He is a major giver to Birthright Israel, which provides free 10-day trips to Israel for Jews aged 18 to 26.

Ex-Mich. Rep. gets year for role in terrorism funding


A former Michigan congressman was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison on for assisting a charity accused of funding Hamas and other terrorist groups.

Mark Siljander, 59,  of Great Falls, Va., was sentenced Wednesday to charges of obstruction of justice and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. He had pleaded guilty to the charges in July 2010.

An Islamic American Relief Agency fund-raiser from Chicago allegedly hired Siljander to lobby for the removal of the agency from a U.S. Senate list of charities suspected of having terrorist ties, The Wall Street Journal reported. Siljander did not disclose this information and lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation during its probe.

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, the Islamic American Relief Agency collected funds in boxes marked “Allah” and “Israel,” showing that the money was going toward attacks in Israel, and collected money in at least one Western European country that went straight to Hamas. The charity also has been connected to the Al-Aksa Foundation

Siljander, a Republican, served in Congress from 1981 to 1987. He had faced up to 15 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

Abdel Azim El-Siddig, the fund-raiser from Chicago, who pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, got two years probation, according to a report by Main Justice, a news website tracking the federal justice system. Mubarak Hamed, a Sudanese American who had been the charity’s director, got four years and ten months.

Receiving six months probation each were Ali Mohamed Bagegni, a Libyan American and IARA board member, and Ahmad Mustafa, an Iraqi citizen and IARA fundraiser. Both men were credited with assisting the prosecution.

Report: Hadassah Medical Center can’t meet payments


The Hadassah Medical Center has not been able to pay its suppliers, an Israeli business daily has reported.

Hadassah’s debt to its suppliers is reportedly about $2.65 million, according to the Calcalist, a publication of Yediot Achronot.

The Hadassah Medical Center does not receive any Israeli government support, as it is owned by Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.

The Hadassah organization lost about $90 million in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Following the Madoff affair, Hadassah cut its annual support to the hospital, according to Yediot Achronot.

Hadassah told Ynet that “unlike other hospitals, Hadassah does not receive any budgeting from the government or the State health system. This is a temporary setback in a minor portion of the payments due to the fact that Hadassah has not received all of its due payments from various parties.”

UNESCO cut finding for a Palestinian magazine in which a teenage girl appears to express admiration


The magazine, Zayzafouna, published an article earlier this year from a high-school-age contributor in which she describes four role models.

One of them is Adolf Hitler, who comes to her in a dream and says he killed Jews “so you would all know that they are a nation which spreads destruction all over the world” and counsels her to be “resilient and patient concerning the suffering that Palestine is experiencing at their hands.”

The Associated Press on Friday quoted UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural and scientific arm, as saying it “deplores and condemns” the article and would cease funding for the magazine.

The article was first brought to light by Palestinian Media Watch, a group that tracks Palestinian incitement.

The AP quoted the magazine’s editor as saying that the article is “accusatory” toward Hitler, although he did not dispute the translation.

The Palestinian Authority, which also funds the magazine, said the article was “unacceptable” and that the editor would in the future show greater care.

Baltimore-area philanthropies changing the way they fund day schools


Two Baltimore-based philanthropies are paring down a coordinated tuition grant program for area Jewish day schools but will still be giving to the schools.

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation along with the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore made the announcement last week about the planned end of a six-year, $16 million Jewish day school scholarship initiative and their future allocations to the schools. Ten Baltimore-area schools are benefiting from the current initiative.

In the past six years, the Weinberg Foundation has provided $1 million for the first year, then $2 million a year for five years for a total of $11 million for the schools. The Associated matched that with another $5 million.

Going forward, Weinberg will allocate $5 million to the schools over the next five years. That includes $1.7 million for the 2012-13 school year, with a gradual reduction of funds over the subsequent four years. At the same time, the Associated will increase its commitment to Baltimore Jewish day schools, adding an additional $3 million match over the next five years. The Associated dollars are expected to come from an increase in core allocations from its annual campaign as well as a commitment to raise restricted funds for day schools.

The money is in addition to the current $2.1 million allocated annually by the Associated to the schools.

Linda Hurwitz, resource development chair at the Associated, emphasized that the ability to allocate funding for day schools will be dependent on the annual campaign to raise additional money.

“Putting food on the table and a roof over someone’s head is equally important. We have to continue to provide a safety net,” she said.

Local day school heads expressed their appreciation of both the Weinberg Foundation and the Associated for making day school education a priority and for their continued efforts at providing funding for scholarship needs. However, several admitted that they will have to step up efforts to make up the difference from the overall decreased grant money available.

“We were aware that Weinberg was ending,” said Dr. Paul Schneider, headmaster of the Krieger Schechter Day School. “We met with [them] to encourage them to not just end it [completely], but to do it in a gradual way. That’s exactly what they did.”

ADL, AJC reportedly suffering major drops in donations


The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee reportedly have suffered steep declines in contributions over the past five years.

According to the Forward, the two prominent American Jewish groups each lost more than $20 million in annual contributions from 2006 to 2010.

During that period, contributions to the ADL fell to $51 million in 2010 from $73 million in 2006. The AJC brought in $38 million in 2010 after having raised $62 million in 2006.

Also, IRS records show that the ADL has cut more than 100 employees between 2008 and 2010, from 528 to 427, the Forward reported. In the same period, National Director Abraham Foxman’s salary has risen from $563,024 to $624,470.

The decline, according to the report, is based on the depressed economic climate coupled with a shift to support from young Jewish philanthropists for single-issue groups that have proliferated over the past decade.

Pro-Israel groups such as AIPAC, J Street, The Israel Project and StandWithUs, as well as charities such as the American Jewish World Service, have seen significant jumps in contributions.

“There are organizations that have been created to take single elements of what the American Jewish organizations have been doing all along,” Foxman told the Forward. “The pie hasn’t gotten bigger, but the slicing has increased.”

UCLA Orthodox program raises funds, but need continues


More than 100 students, alumni and parents raised $23,000 for UCLA’s JLIC (Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus) during a Nov. 18 fundraiser, contributing roughly a quarter of the $100,000 that the program now needs to raise annually to ensure its continuing presence on the Westwood campus.

The JLIC program, which provides Jewish learning, prayer and holiday experiences for Orthodox students at UCLA, was funded entirely by the Orthodox Union (OU) until earlier this year, when the OU asked JLIC and the L.A. Jewish community to step up and help shoulder half the cost of running the program. 

Rabbi Aryeh and Sharona Kaplan, two East Coast natives who founded and have directed the program at UCLA for the past eight years, are now charged with raising 50 percent of the program’s operating cost, according to Joshua Ross, associate director of the JLIC program for the OU.

Rabbi Kaplan said he and his wife, Sharona, are now spending time on fundraising that otherwise would be spent preparing for classes or connecting with students. 

“There’s definitely a time management issue when you add these things to the schedule,” he said.

To jumpstart the campaign for the 2012-13 school year, the Kaplans organized the Nov. 18 fundraiser, Take Us to the Top(pings), at Toppings Yogurt in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood. Costs for the event, including free frozen yogurt and an iPad 2 raffle, were covered by the OU, according to Rabbi Kaplan.

Rabbi Kaplan said he’s grateful to the many alumni who stepped up to raise awareness and solicit donations.

One alumnus, Nick Faguet, created the Web site keepourkaplans.org, through which 70 to 80 percent of the program’s donations have been processed, Rabbi Kaplan said. 

Faguet, who graduated last year and is currently attending UCLA School of Law, said he was surprised at how everyone he approached was willing to do their share to donate.

Faguet said he credits the JLIC program with “creating a Jewish community within the larger campus community” and being a place where “people who are observant can be observant without alienating the rest of the student body.”

Debby Segura, a parent of two former UCLA alumni and a member of JLIC’s board of governors, said the JLIC program was a “lifeline” for her kids, offering Shabbat experiences and learning opportunities. 

“Without [JLIC], it would not have been a rich experience; it would have been just a commuter experience,” she said. 

A number of things led to the shift in the OU’s support of JLIC, Ross said. “Dollars are down, in general, for the OU, and all branches are looking to do more fundraising.”

But while the economy played a part, Ross said the OU was moving to make JLIC more of a partnership anyway.

If the Kaplans can’t meet their fundraising goals, “it’s not a do or die situation,” Ross said. “If we get to 70 or 80 percent, we’ll find a way. If we only get to 20 percent — which we’ve already surpassed — it’s a more challenging situation.”

Among all of the 15 JLIC programs on campuses in North America, the OU is looking to create more partnerships with Hillel, parent advisory boards and other initiatives, he said.  But while the Hillel at UCLA provides use of its building and contributes programming money to JLIC, it isn’t able to help subsidize overall operating costs, Ross said. 

“But we have partners,” he said. “We’re not in panic mode.”

Germany doubling its funding to Jewish community


Germany will double its funding to the Central Council of Jews in Germany to about $13 millon.

The decision, which broke last week in the mainstream news before being publicly announced, follows negotiations that began a year ago with the election of Dieter Graumann, a businessman based in Frankfurt, to head the council.

The German federal government will raise its allocation to the Central Council to 10 million euro, or about $13 million, from about 5 million euro, or $6.7 million.

The contract is reportedly to be signed in the coming days. Graumann confirmed the allocation in an interview Saturday with Domradio, a Catholic radio news service.

Speaking with young Jews at a youth congress in Weimar over the weekend, Graumann, 61, said he hopes especially to use the new funding to help the younger generation. He said that despite Europe’s difficult economic climate, the timing was evidently right—with the current government of Chancellor Angela Merkel still in power—to ask for additional help.

Graumann said the council represents 110,000 Jews who are members of communities. According to the council, another 140,000 people who identify as Jews do not belong to communities. The great majority—some 85 percent—came to Germany from the former Soviet Union after German unification in 1990.

Germany’s Jewish population is more than five times as large as before fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Before Hitler came to power in 1933, there were about 500,000 Jews in Germany.

In 2003, the German government signed its first contract with the Central Council, putting it on a legal par with the Catholic and Protestant communities. At the time, the government pledged 3 million euro, or about $4 million, per year to help the Jewish community meet its infrastructure needs, before raising the allotment to its current levels in 2008.

In recent years, as the community has grown, there have been increasing demands on the council to fund additional programs, such as those that train teachers and rabbis for communities.

Graumann has said his main concern as head of the council is to promote the continuity of Jewish life in Germany, with a special focus on youth and on the integration of former Soviet Jews in the communities.

The Jewish youth congress in Weimar marked the first time that the event has been held concurrently with the meeting of the Central Council board. Participants had the chance to ask questions of the president in a special forum, and on Sunday they were to be represented at the board meeting.

Republicans’ ‘Starting from zero’ aid proposal startles pro-Israel community


“Starting from zero,” the foreign assistance plan touted by leading Republican candidates at a debate, is getting low marks, and not just from Democrats and the foreign policy community. Pro-Israel activists and fellow Republicans also have concerns.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry introduced the plan during the first foreign policy debate Saturday night, held by CBS and the National Journal at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. South Carolina is a key early primary state.

“The foreign aid budget in my administration for every country is going to start at zero dollars,” he said. “Zero dollars. And then we’ll have a conversation. Then we’ll have a conversation in this country about whether or not a penny of our taxpayer dollar needs to go into those countries.”

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, signed on immediately. Gingrich said the plan made “absolutely perfect sense.” Romney, who has made clear that he disagrees with Perry on much else, in this case said he welcomed the idea, saying “You start everything at zero.”

The proposal of such a radical change raised concerns in the pro-Israel community.

“Hacking away at the international affairs budget of the U.S. government is inefficient and counterproductive, and will not advance U.S. fiscal interests,” said Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international affairs. “There’s too little money and it’s too vital to put on the chopping block.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee did not have comment, but its former spokesman, Josh Block, weighed in with an e-mail blast to reporters of comments he had provided to Politico.

“When Rick Perry speaks, all I can think is oops,” wrote Block, who is now a consultant for centrist Democrats, but who has been critical of President Obama. Block was referring to Perry’s “oops” in an earlier debate, when he had a memory lapse about the agencies that he had proposed to eliminate.

“Even appearing to question our commitment to Israel certainly falls in that category,” Block said. “Foreign aid is one of the best investments we can make, and it represents 1 percent of our budget. Israel is special, and our aid to them is a direct investment in our own economy.”

At least three-quarters of the $3 billion in military assistance that Israel receives from the United States each year must be spent stateside. Overall, the U.S. spends about $50 billion annually in foreign assistance, less than 1 percent of the overall budget.

Pressed by a viewer, through Twitter, to specify whether “start from zero” included Israel, Perry replied, “Absolutely.”

“Every country would start at zero,” he said. “Obviously, Israel is a special ally. And my bet is that we would be funding them at some substantial level. But it makes sense for everyone to come in at zero and make your case.”

That drew a withering response from the Republican Jewish Coalition, which tweeted, “Hoping @perrytruthteam will brief their man on 10-year Memorandum of Understanding that governs US- #Israel funding levels.”

Israel and the United States signed the 10-year memorandum of understanding in 2007; its long-term assurances are aimed at providing Israel with both financial assurances and political support. The message, said Robert Wexler, a former Democratic congressman from Florida speaking to Jewish reporters on a Democratic National Committee conference call, is that the United States has Israel’s back in the long run.

“Contrast that with the message that the Republican presidential candidates sent on Saturday night, which is that the security relationship between the United States and Israel, like all other relationships, is zeroed out every year,” Wexler said. “And let Israel make the argument why it’s justified, and maybe it will and maybe it won’t be honored. The 2007 memorandum of understanding for President Obama is sacrosanct. For the Republicans, they apparently don’t even reference it.”

In fact, immediately following the debate, Romney’s spokesmen said he would exempt Israel from the policy—but that didn’t do much to assuage pro-Israel concerns. Pro-Israel figures for years have emphasized that they prefer to see Israel wrapped into an overall foreign policy package and not tweaked apart, as some Republicans have proposed.

Gingrich raised pro-Israel eyebrows when he proposed starting Egypt at zero, in part because of rising Muslim-Christian tensions in that country in the wake of the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. Israel has made clear that it wants U.S. assistance to continue as long as the Egyptian government maintains the peace treaty with Israel.

Richard Parker, the spokesman for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a foreign aid advocacy group co-founded by AIPAC and top-heavy with former U.S. generals, said U.S. assistance leverages U.S. influence and tamps down unrest.

“When we go into a country and help them with education and health efforts, you can stabilize those countries,” said Parker, whose group on Monday released a letter from five former secretaries of state—including four Republicans—urging Congress not to cut the foreign aid budget.

That was also a key point for Isaacson, who spoke with JTA from Morocco, where he is on an AJC trip through the region to encourage democracy reforms.

“I’m meeting with government and civil society figures that see us a beacon of democracy, but an uncertain partner,” Isaacson said, referring to the rancorous political debate in the United States over the proper U.S. role overseas. “Signals that the U.S. would retreat are troubling and not in the interests of the United States.”

A Romney adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity said that influence comes only if the United States ensures accountability from recipients. The source referred to the issue that had sparked Perry’s response in the first place: Pakistan’s unreliable role as an ally.

“We have seen a ton of money in places, and zero comes out of it,” the source said, explaining that starting from zero would “force a culture of accountability. The Pakistanis think they have us over a barrel. It’s one thing to have influence, and it’s another to have someone think they’re so indispensable to you they can do what they want.”

That is not a unanimous view among Republicans. The top foreign operations appropriator in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), has repeatedly made the case for using assistance as a means of influence. Significantly, two of the candidates with deep congressional roots made the same case in the debate Saturday night, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).

“We can’t be indecisive about whether Pakistan is our friend,” Santorum said. “They must be our friend. And we must engage them as friends, get over the difficulties we have, as we did with Saudi Arabia, with respect to the events of 9/11.”

The most recent debate was not the first time that Republican front-runners called for a change in American foreign aid policies. In a debate last month, Romney suggested that he favored eliminating American foreign aid that goes for humanitarian purposes.

“I happen to think it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to go give to another country for humanitarian aid,” Romney said at the Oct. 18 debate. “We ought to get the Chinese to take care of the people that are taking that borrowed money today.”

Israel cuts tax payments to Palestinian Authority


Israel has suspended $100 million in tax payments to the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli officials had threatened to cut off payments entirely if Palestine was admitted into UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency. Palestine was recognized as a state at UNESCO earlier this week over opposition from U.S. and Israel.

Palestinian officials announced Thursday that Israel had not transferred tax revenue for November. The funds are collected from customs, border and some income taxes and are usually transferred within the first three days of the month. 

Israel has yet to announce a public position on the tax payments, but an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a “temporary hold” has been put in place “pending a final decision,” The Associated Press reported.

According to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the PA uses that money to pay their employees and has had to borrow from local banks to make up for the loss of funds.

Israel to halt UNESCO funding over Palestinian vote


Israel said on Thursday it would freeze its funding to the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO following the group’s decision to grant the Palestinians full membership.

A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said UNESCO’s decision this week damaged chances of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians and that Israel would halt its annual payments of $2 million.

Israel’s main ally, the United States, has also stopped its financing, which accounts for 22 percent of the agency’s funds.

The UNESCO vote on Monday was a diplomatic victory for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who in the absence of peace talks has pushed for recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations, a move opposed by Israel and the United States.

“Steps like these do not promote peace but make it more distant,” Netanyahu said of the UNESCO vote.

Netanyahu has called on Abbas to return without preconditions to peace negotiations that collapsed over a year ago in a dispute over Jewish settlement. Abbas says Israel must first freeze settlement activity.

A day after the UNESCO vote, Israel announced it would speed up the building of some 2,000 housing units in the occupied West Bank and around Jerusalem, and freeze tax transfers to Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Canada will not make up UNESCO shortfall, minister says


Canada’s foreign affairs minister said his country would continue paying dues to UNESCO but would not offer the agency any additional money.

John Baird said Wednesday that his government would not offer any additional voluntary payments to help offset the shortfall after the United States withdrew its funding over the U.N. cultural agency’s vote to extend full membership to the Palestinians.

Canada gives nearly $12 million annually to UNESCO. It voted against the motion.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization approved the Palestinians’ bid Monday during its general assembly in Paris by a vote of 107 to 14. The vote activated legislation adopted nearly two decades ago that prohibits U.S. funding to U.N. agencies that accord the Palestine Liberation Organization statehood status.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that a $60 million payment to UNESCO scheduled for November will not be delivered. The U.S. annual dues to UNESCO comprise more than 20 percent of the agency’s budget.

“The bottom line is there’s going to be a large hole in UNESCO’s budget because of the American law which withdraws funding, and people at UNESCO should not look to Canada to fill that budget hole,” Baird said. “They’ll have to go to the countries who supported this resolution; that caused this budget loophole.”

Granger warns UNESCO: Admit Palestinians, lose funding


A top congressional appropriator, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, warned UNESCO that granting the Palestinians full membership could mean a cutoff in U.S. funding for the cultural body.

The Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations on Wednesday allowed to go ahead a full vote later this month on whether to admit the Palestinians as a member.

“Since April, I have made it clear to the Palestinian leadership that I would not support sending U.S. taxpayer money to the Palestinians if they sought statehood at the United Nations,” Granger (R-Texas) said in a statement. “Making a move in another U.N. agency will not only jeopardize our relationship with the Palestinians, it will jeopardize our contributions to the United Nations. As chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, I will advocate for all funding to be cut off. This is consistent with current law and I will consider additional actions as needed. 

“There are consequences for short-cutting the process, not only for the Palestinians, but for our longstanding relationship with the United Nations,” the statement concluded.

Granger’s statement cited U.S. law that bans funding of any institution that grants member-state status to the Palestinians.

The United States, Germany, Latvia and Romania opposed the vote. Forty countries voted in favor and 14 abstained.

Israel rejected the approval of the UNESCO vote. “Israel believes that the correct and only way to advance the peace process with the Palestinians is through direct, unconditional negotiations,” said a statement issued by Israel’s Foreign Ministry. “The Palestinians’ actions at UNESCO negate both the bilateral negotiations route and the Quartet’s proposal for continuing the diplomatic process. Their actions are a negative response to Israel’s and the international community’s efforts to promote the peace process.”

“UNESCO’s responsibilities address culture, science and education. UNESCO has remained silent in the face of significant change across the Middle East yet has found time during its’ current meeting to adopt six decisions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The decision to grant the Palestinians membership of UNESCO will not advance their desire for an independent state whatsoever,” teh ministry’s statement said.

The Anti Defamation League called the decision to bring the Palestinian request to a vote “woefully premature and dangerously inappropriate.”

“The Palestinians have unduly politicized this body, and if this action is approved by the full membership, it risks undermining the truly important work of UNESCO,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman in a statement.

“UNESCO, or any international organization for that matter, is not the place to grant recognition of a Palestinian state. Seeking such recognition ignores and delays the necessary discussions about what shape proposed borders would take; the very recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; security concerns, and many other issues,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “All such determinations can only be made directly between the Israelis and Palestinians.”