Israel to withhold Palestinian Authority funds until March

Israel will withhold tax revenues from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's administration until March at least in response to his statehood campaign at the United Nations, Israel's foreign minister said.

Under interim peace deals, Israel collects some $100 million a month in duties on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank — money that is badly needed to pay public sector salaries.

“The Palestinians can forget about getting even one cent in the coming four months, and in four months' time we will decide how to proceed,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a speech on Tuesday night.

Israel says Abbas violated previous peace accords by sidestepping stalled negotiations and securing a Palestinian status upgrade in the United Nations last month.

Israel has already withheld the December transfer, saying the money would be used to start paying off $200 million the Palestinians owe the Israel Electric Corporation.

Lieberman, a hardliner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative coalition government, said the Palestinians also had another debt with the Israeli water authority that would have to be paid off.

“Israel is not prepared to accept unilateral steps by the Palestinian side, and anyone who thinks they will achieve concessions and gains this way is wrong,” he said.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, said earlier this month that Israel was guilty of “piracy and theft” by refusing to hand over the funds.

The European Union has also criticized Israel for not handing over the cash. “Contractual obligations … regarding full, timely, predictable and transparent transfer of tax and custom revenues have to be respected,” it said on Monday.

Israel has previously frozen payments to the PA during times of heightened security and diplomatic tensions, provoking strong international criticism, such as when the U.N. cultural body UNESCO granted the Palestinians full membership a year ago.

Abbas's U.N. victory was a diplomatic setback for the United States and Israel, which were joined by only seven other countries in voting against upgrading the Palestinians' observer status to “non-member state”, like the Vatican, from “entity”.

Hours after the U.N. vote, Israel said it would authorize 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and expedite planning work for thousands more in a geographically sensitive area close to Jerusalem. Critics say this plan would kill off Palestinian hopes of a viable state.

Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Crispian Balmer

U.S. warned European governments not to support Palestinian state

The United States reportedly warned European governments in a memorandum not to support a Palestinian bid for increased status at the United Nations.

The memorandum, which was seen by the British newspaper the Guardian, called giving the Palestinians enhanced non-member state status “extremely counterproductive” and threatened “significant negative consequences” for the Palestinian Authority, including financial sanctions, the newspaper reported on Oct. 1.

The memorandum, sent by U.S. officials to representatives of European governments at the United Nations General Assembly last week in New York, said that Palestinian statehood “can only be achieved via direct negotiations with the Israelis.” It called on the European governments to block Palestinian attempts to be recognized as a non-member state.

It also asked each government where it stands on the issue and said the U.S. was interested in knowing whether the European government had been approached by Palestinian representatives.

The Palestinians reportedly will wait until after November's U.S. presidential elections to make their bid in the General Assembly, where the United States does not have a veto, for the new status. They will, however, press for a vote by the end of the year and expect the issue to pass by a “comfortable majority,” according to the Guardian.

Israel transfers money to PA to ease economic crisis

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the transfer of some $63 million to the Palestinian Authority to help ease its economic crisis.

The transfer Tuesday evening came after Netanyahu consulted on the issue with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, and then asked his special envoy, Isaac Molho, to coordinate with the Palestinian leadership, according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

The money is an advance on tax revenues collected for the Palestinian Authority by Israel.

“We are working on several fronts in order to help the Palestinian Authority cope with its economic problems,” Netanyahu said earlier Tuesday during a meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. “We have made several changes in the taxation agreements. We are advancing certain transfers. We have also helped with Palestinian workers and with a series of other steps in order to make things easier for them.

“Of course, there is a global reality and it is also related to the internal management of every economy, but for our part we are making efforts to help the Palestinian Authority survive this crisis. I hope that they will succeed in doing so; this is in our common interest.”

Palestinians have been staging demonstrations in the streets of the West Bank since last week to protest the extreme economic hardship. The protests turned violent and destructive late Monday, with thousands of protesters burning tires and attacking police in Hebron and Nablus. Protesters also reportedly smashed the windows of the municipal building and a police station in Hebron. Palestinian taxi, truck and bus drivers staged a one-day strike on Monday.

Civil servants did not receive paychecks for the month of August.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad announced measures Tuesday to ease the economic hardship, including lowering the value added tax and prices on diesel, gas and kerosene.

Israeli officials are concerned that the unrest over economics and frustration with the Palestinian leadership could turn into a third intifada directed at Israel, Reuters reported.

U.S. seizes $150 million in Hezbollah-linked funds

U.S. authorities announced the seizure of $150 million allegedly linked to a money-laundering scheme by the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

The Lebanese Canadian Bank and other unidentified institutions sent nearly $330 million to the United States between 2007 and 2011 to finance the purchase of used cars that were shipped to West Africa, according to the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Money from the sale of the cars was then routed to Lebanon, where it was handed over to Hezbollah, according to the attorney’s office.

Monday’s seizure concerns a December 2011 money laundering and forfeiture complaint filed in U.S. federal court in New York that targeted the bank and two other Lebanese financial institutions with alleged ties to Hezbollah.

“As we alleged last year, the Lebanese Canadian Bank played a key role in facilitating money laundering for Hezbollah controlled organizations across the globe,” Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart said in a statement.

A Hezbollah official refuted the charges, saying they were “another attempt to tarnish the image of the resistance in Lebanon,” but U.S. prosecutors said there was no doubt about the institutions’ ties to the militant outfit, AFP reported.

European Jewish leaders turning to Israel for help

Jozeph Nassi, the vice president of Istanbul’s Jewish community, describes the dilemma facing Europe’s Jewish communities.

“When the father gives to the son, they both laugh. When the son gives to the father, they both cry,” he said.

Nassi was speaking of his ambivalence about turning to Israel for assistance as 80 European Jewish community leaders gathered to pursue a united agenda — a conversation dominated by the need to manage rising costs for security, Jewish schooling and aid to the needy.

Their meeting near Catalonia Square in the center of this Spanish city was a stark contrast to the celebrations outside. For the locals, Spain’s spectacular 4-0 victory over Ireland in the Euro 12 soccer championships on June 14 was a distraction from the effects of the acute financial crisis gripping the region.

The Jewish visitors, by contrast, had convened at a nearby hotel for the weekend to immerse themselves in that very problem, hoping to come up with creative ways to offset its effects in their communities.

Struggling with unexpectedly and steadily increasing expenses, the European Jewish leaders are turning for help to Israel, their traditional beneficiary and now the owner of a growing economy.

Their call came at a gathering funded by the reconstituted European Council of Jewish Communities (ECJC), a group initially founded 40 years ago by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to serve as its European arm. The organization fell apart in 2010 following budget shortages and a walkout by board members over transparency issues.

The JDC helped re-establish the ECJC last year, and the latter now wants to help unite Europe’s Jewish communities along the lines of the North American Jewish federation system. The European Jewish Congress also supports the ECJC.

“We believe it’s the responsibility of the State of Israel to help the Jewish communities in Europe through this difficulty,” Robert Ejnes, president of the Jewish community of Boulogne in France, told the gathering.

France’s Jewish community — with some 500,000 members, Europe’s largest outside of Russia — is struggling to meet its members’ needs and was “limited” in how it could help communities abroad, he said. Some French-Jewish parents, Ejnes added, can no longer afford to give their children lunch money for the school cafeteria, and the elderly are struggling to pay their utility bills.

Further, the March 19 shooting in Toulouse underlined the need to invest more in protecting the 30,000 students in French-Jewish schools, Ejnes said. Three children and a rabbi at the Otzar HaTorah school were killed that day by Mohammed Merah, 23, a French-Algerian sympathizer of the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, European Jewish communities have spent decades helping Israel establish its economy and build a strong army, Ejnes said.

“Now the child is getting very strong and the parents are older,” he said. “Europe’s Jewish communities do not have the strength they had.”

The presidents of the Jewish communities of Lisbon, Portugal, and Sofia, Bulgaria, supported his call.

The acute economic crisis in Greece was, not surprisingly, a matter of concern. The president of the Jewish community of Athens credited Israel and American Jews for their support, and noted that European communities “gave less.”

Benjamin Albalas of Athens said the JDC alone has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Greek-Jewish community since the crisis made it one of the hardest-hit Jewish communities in Europe.

He declined to say how much money Israel is giving.

“Israel has its channels to help. It is represented by the Jewish Agency,” Albalas said.

Back home, he added, some in his Athens community cannot afford funeral expenses for their relatives, face eviction or can no longer afford to pay community membership fees, which are not uncommon in Europe.

So far, only one European Jewish community has helped Greek Jewry, he added. The tiny Jewish community of Luxembourg gave 1,000 euros, or about $1,260. 

Mario Izcovich, director of pan-European programs at the JDC, urged European Jewish communities to help one another and to reconsider “a culture or tendency” that places responsibility for action with the state. He called the donation by Luxembourg’s Jewish community “an example” for other communities. 

Compared to the U.S. community, European Jewish communities “do not have a culture of giving,” he noted.

Several organizations and Jewish communities signed a document on June 15 — titled the Barcelona Declaration by the ECJC — pledging their commitment to transparency and to promoting solidarity among Jewish communities in Europe and beyond.

The motivation for such joint initiatives and declarations lies in how European Jewish communities are “needlessly divided,” according to Izcovich, who has lived in Spain for the past 25 years.

Referring to the 1985 treaty that led to a borderless European Union, he said, “We need to create our own mental Schengen” agreement.

Obama administration to ask for more Iron Dome funds

The Obama administration plans to ask Congress to fund additions to Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

“The Department of Defense has been in conversations with the government of Israel about U.S. support for the acquisition of additional Iron Dome systems and intends to request an appropriate level of funding from Congress to support such acquisitions based on Israeli requirements and production capacity,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement on March 27.

The short-range anti-missile system, funded in part by a $205 million U.S. grant, helped stop as many as 80 percent of missiles launched from the Gaza Strip toward heavily populated areas during recent tensions on that border.

Republicans in Congress have slammed Obama for what they say is underfunding of Israel’s missile defense, although he has doubled the spending for this period projected by his predecessor, President George W. Bush. 

Top congressional Democrats praised the announcement and said they would back the funding through bipartisan legislation already under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), a member of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, said in a statement that he would work “to robustly fund Iron Dome.”

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who introduced the most recent legislation with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the committee chair, called Panetta’s statement a “further step in the right direction.”

Meanwhile, an Iron Dome battery was deployed March 26 in the Gush Dan area of central Israel as part of an exercise to test the system’s ability to protect Tel Aviv from rockets and missiles.

U.S. releases $40 million to PA

The United States transferred $40 million in foreign assistance to the Palestinians. 

The Associated Press reported Thursday that congressional lawmakers released the funds, which amount to 20 percent of the $187 million in foreign assistance from fiscal year 2011 that was held up by Congress in response to the Palestinians’ actions at the United Nations. 

The assistance that the U.S. is for humanitarian and economic purposes and not for security assistance.

The release of the 2011 funds comes after an omnibus 2012 appropriations package passed by Congress earlier this month included restrictions that would limit any assistance to the Palestinians if they continued with their efforts to achieve member status at the United Nations. 

During yesterday’s State Department briefing, spokesperson Victoria Nuland emphasized that it was not in the interest of the United States to withhold assistance to the Palestinians.

“We don’t think it’s in U.S. national interest to keep this money frozen. So from that perspective, we’re gratified that 40 million has now been released,” Nuland said.

A senior Republican Hill staffer noted that this could be a good way to test the Palestinian Authority without putting U.S. taxpayers at too much risk.

The staffer said “this is a smart move by the appropriators to put [Mahmoud] Abbas to the test without risking too much taxpayer money. Now that we have built-in legal conditions tying future Palestinian aid to issues like statehood, UN agency membership and a unity government with Hamas, the Congress is making the first move for 2012 – releasing a little bit of money to the PA in good faith. If the Palestinians act responsibly and comply with US law, they’ll get another tranche. If they don’t, especially in these times of great austerity, the American people will understand if we turn the spigot back off.”

Israel releases PA funds

Israel released $100 million in tax funds it had withheld from the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday the handover of the money, the transfer of which had been frozen on Nov. 1 in response to the Palestinians’ recognition as a state by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural and scientific agency.

Israel, which collects tax and customs on behalf of the Palestinian Authority under interim peace accords from the 1990s, has been troubled by the PA’s lobbying for full U.N. membership as bilateral negotiations remain stalled.

Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the decision to free the cash, a month’s worth of levies that the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority depends on to pay its civil servants, “followed the cessation of unilateral steps on the part of the Palestinian Authority.”

“In the event of the Palestinian Authority resuming unilateral steps, the money transfer will again be reviewed,” the statement said.

Among those opposed to relinquishing the cash was Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who noted that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has feted terrorists freed by Israel as part of last month’s prisoner swap with Hamas.

But Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is a junior party to Netanyahu’s Likud in the conservative coalition, said Monday that he would not quit the government in protest at a restoration of the PA funds.

Holocaust Documentary Screening Raises Funds for Japan Earthquake Victims

A documentary about Chiune Sempo Sugihara — who saved thousands of Jews while he was vice consul for the Japanese Empire in Lithuania during World War II — screened at the Skirball Cultural Center on June 23 to raise funds for Japan’s earthquake victims.

“Conspiracy of Kindness” follows Sugihara’s efforts to issue transit visas to Jews from Poland and Lithuania, enabling them to travel to Japan. Having saved more than 60,000 Jewish refugees, he received Israel’s Righteous Among the Nations award.

The film, by Robert Kirk and Diane Estelle Vicari, aired on PBS in 2005;  Vicari organized the fundraiser.

The event raised approximately $4,000, plus an additional anonymous donation of $2,000, Vicari said. Proceeds will benefit the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, which has raised more than $9 million so far.

Approximately 300 people attended the fundraiser, including Academy Award-nominated actor Theodore Bikel. Speakers included Israel Consul General Jacob Dayan; Hirotaka Kakita, consul general of Japan; and Carl Hartill, consul general of Canada.

Obama waives laws on P.A. funds, office

President Obama issued waivers allowing the transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority and extending the the stay of the PLO office in Washington.

Obama’s waivers, issued late Wednesday, set aside laws dating back to the 1980s banning a Palestine Liberation Organization presence in the United States, and more recent laws requiring strict reporting requirements for any funds transfer to the Palestinian Authority.

Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, in the final years of his presidency, raised funding for the Palestinians from occasional spurts of $20 million to $400 million annually.

Obama has budgeted $500 million in assistance for the Palestinians; much of this is directed to nonprofit groups, but about half of it goes directly to the Palestinian Authority.

As his predecessors have done, Obama cited national security concerns in announcing both waivers. The Obama administration is pressing forward with Palestinian-Israeli talks, in part as a means toward containing Iran and radical groups in the region.

The PLO office waiver must be renewed every six months.

Scandal Could End Sharons Career

Even if he is reelected, the financial scandal dogging him
could spell the end of Ariel Sharon’s political career.

Sharon is accused of taking an illegal loan from a South
African friend to pay off other illegal loans to his past political campaigns.
The prime minister has not been able to explain away the allegations against
him, and more potentially embarrassing details keep surfacing.

The latest polls indicate that Sharon’s Likud Party may be
able to hold its lead over Labor in the Jan. 28 election. However, if
additional revelations about how Sharon and his sons raised funds catch up with
him later and force him to resign, the beneficiary might well be former Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rather than Labor Party Chairman Amram Mitzna.

Polls taken in the wake of the initial revelations showed
Likud plummeting to as few as 27 seats and Labor climbing to as many as 24.
That appeared to indicate that what had once seemed a one-horse race is now
wide open.

Sharon called a news conference to defend himself against
the allegations, but the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, Supreme
Court Justice Mishael Cheshin, forced radio and television stations to cut Sharon
off in midsentence when he judged that Sharon had veered too far into election

That might have rebounded to Sharon’s favor. The latest
polls, taken after Cheshin’s action, showed Likud rising again to 32 seats and
Labor falling to 20. Moreover, with a right-wing religious bloc winning an
estimated 63 seats in the 120-member Knesset, Sharon not only would win the
election but would be able to dictate coalition terms, according to the polls.

Some pundits accused Sharon and his advisers of deliberately
forcing Cheshin’s hand by switching from a response to the allegations to a
clear political attack on Labor and Mitzna. The tactic, they said, allowed
Sharon to portray himself as a victim of Labor, the left-wing media and the
liberal-leaning judge, while avoiding the need to answer tough questions.

Whether it was a deliberate strategy or not, events worked
in Sharon’s favor. “Sharon was able to rekindle the Likud tribe’s fire,” as one
pundit wrote. The public slighting of Sharon induced Likud activists to offer
their support, and the polls’ results seemed to reflect Likud’s newfound

The problem for Sharon is that he has yet to answer any of
the potentially incriminating questions arising from the affair.

Briefly, the facts of the case are these: As part of his
report on the 2001 elections that brought Sharon to power, the state
comptroller located an illegal contribution of more than $1 million to Sharon’s
1999 campaign for Likud leadership. Rather than face a fine of four times that
amount, Sharon undertook to pay the money back to the donor, an American-based
company called Annex Research.

It should be noted that Israeli election law sets strict
limits on the size of Israeli campaign donations, and does not allow donations
of any kind from abroad.

To repay Annex Research, Sharon’s son, Gilad, secured a bank
loan and offered to mortgage the family farm as collateral. When that proved
impossible, Gilad Sharon used a $1.5 million loan from his godfather, South
African businessman Cyril Kern, to raise a loan from a second bank to repay the
loan from the first bank.

Gilad Sharon paid back Kern’s loan seven months later, while
the outstanding loan from the second bank is due on April 30.

On the basis of these facts, police opened an investigation
of Sharon and his sons on suspicion of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The
state prosecution asked South African authorities for cooperation in
investigating Kern.

For his part, Kern said the money was a personal gift, not a
political donation. “I can do what I like with my money,” Kern told the Sunday
Times of Johannesburg. “I helped a good friend, and I have been paid back. I am
happy I did that.”

Sharon reportedly telephoned Kern last week to apologize
that he had been dragged into the scandal.

Some questions in the case that investigators and
journalists are asking:

Who is involved in Annex Research, and why won’t Sharon

Is Annex Research a shell company for channeling funds
from dubious sources?

Why did Gilad Sharon use Kern’s money to raise a loan from
a second bank to pay off the first bank, rather than using it as collateral or
capital for the first bank?

Why was the Kern money transferred to Israel via banks in
Austria and the United States?

Did Kern really make the loan or was he a conduit for
funds from more dubious sources?

Was the use of the Kern loan a case of using one illegal
donation to pay back another?

Does Kern have business interests in Israel, in which case
the loan could be seen as a possible bribe for preferential treatment?

What collateral remains for the second bank loan after
Gilad Sharon repaid Kern’s money?

How did Gilad Sharon make enough money in seven months to
repay the loans, when his business had been suffering from cash flow problems
and the Israeli economy is going through a period of deep recession?

Did the prime minister mislead Israeli authorities when,
as part of the investigation, he failed to mention the money from Kern?

Did Sharon mislead the Israeli public when he said he
didn’t know how his sons had repaid Annex Research?

Ma’ariv newspaper added a new twist this week, claiming that
Kern had tried to interest Israeli businessmen in huge gold and diamond deals
in South Africa and had kept Gilad Sharon informed. That might imply that Kern
has business interests in Israel, making his financial aid to the Sharons

There is a precedent for such suspicions: One of the main
reasons for President Ezer Weizman’s resignation in mid-2000 was the revelation
that his benefactor, Edouard Saroussi, a French businessman, had business
interests in Israel.

The Labor Party is campaigning heavily on the corruption
issue. Ironically, though, if Sharon wins the election but ultimately is forced
to step down because of the scandal, it’s not Labor that will benefit.

Under the recently abandoned system of direct election of
the prime minister, the prime minister’s resignation would have sparked new
elections. However, under the current system of voting only for parties, Sharon
would simply be replaced by another Likud member who has the confidence of the
Knesset — such as his party rival Netanyahu, for example.

Exchanging Sharon for Netanyahu, who is more hard-line and
less inclined to cooperate with Labor, would be a net loss from the point of
view of the left. From a purely partisan point of view, then, Labor’s
corruption-based campaign against Sharon and his sons may prove to be

Reality For Campus Ills

During the past year, if you were to mention the campus to anyone involved in Jewish life, you would surely elicit a response that was a mixture of anxiety, contempt and anger.

Headlines screamed with assertions that our universities were hotbeds of anti-Semitism and that Jewish students were front-line troops in a war to defend Israel. San Francisco State, Berkeley and Concordia — all of them scenes of belligerence, hateful expression and anti-Jewish violence — became code words denoting the rise of a vicious strain of worldwide anti-Semitic bigotry.

In fact, the events at these institutions appear to have revived the dormant anti-anti-Semitism industry and infused Jewish survivalists with new vitality and with a dose of ethnic pride. The message that these survivalists are disseminating is that we are a community in peril, that the college campus is an intimidating environment for young Jews and that the very survival of Israel is at stake.

But most campus professionals, who are certainly disturbed by the well-publicized anti-Jewish confrontations at a handful of particularly volatile universities, see little evidence of a widespread increase in anti-Semitism at their institutions. In fact, the most recent Anti-Defamation League survey (June 2002) supports this perception statistically with its finding that "anti-Semitism on college campuses is virtually non-existent" (3 percent of college undergraduates are in the most anti-Semitic category, as compared to 17 percent of the national population).

It turns out that contrary to the dominant dogma, "tolerance is more prevalent on college campuses than elsewhere in America."

However, the perception of Jewish students is that they are being victimized, and, notwithstanding the above analysis, their sense of siege requires strategic responses. So, what can be done to improve the atmosphere and buttress the position of Israel supporters on campus?

1. Sponsor speakers who offer healing messages of hope and coexistence, rather than contentious polemicists who project a future of hopelessness and endless confrontation. It is especially important that we maintain our focus on the ultimate goal — peace — and that we consistently affirm that the citizens of Israel are willing to accept a two-state compromise, but that there is no partner in our quest.

Furthermore, it is vital to admit our mistakes and engage in genuine self-criticism. Remember, it is our capacity to recognize our flaws that is one of the keys to our creative survival as a people. What’s more, if you are always right, you lose.

2. Build coalitions with moderate Arabs and Muslims. What is entirely missing from the agenda of the advocacy experts, who represent various communal agencies, is a program for nurturing campus coexistence. This is absolutely vital for the well-being of Jews, Arabs and Muslims, the entire campus community and for the social and political future of America.

My experience has taught me that the vast majority of Arab and Muslim students do not wish to pursue a path of discord and conflict and if approached in a sensitive manner, will agree to enter a dialogue. We simply have to learn how to break through the artificial wall of separation that prevails.

As a result of our efforts at UCLA, we successfully organized a course that was co-taught by myself and a Palestinian graduate student titled, "Voices of Peace: Perspectives on Confrontation and Reconciliation in the Arab-Israeli Conflict."

Just recently, we held the second annual Ramadan break-the-fast, co-sponsored by Hillel, the Progressive Jewish Student Alliance and the Muslim Student Association. One could argue that these activities have contributed to the relative calm at UCLA.

3. Raise funds to endow academic chairs, programs and graduate fellowships in Israel studies. By far, the most important long-term proposal that I can suggest is creating professorships in the field of Israel studies. This addresses an essential educational lacuna, or gap, at our universities that has been generated, to a large extent, by the chilling impact of Edward Said’s polemics on Middle East Studies programs.

There are few institutions that can boast of a Middle East scholar whose sympathies lie with Israel. Such scholarly appointments will not only engender academic balance, but will provide a permanent presence on campus of an instructor who will contribute to the public discourse regarding the conflict, who will function as a resource to colleagues and to students and who, as a regular member of the faculty, will touch the lives and influence the minds of countless number of students by introducing a positive educational approach to the subject.

This is a far more effective utilization of our scarce funds than the current rush by the survivalists to produce propaganda brochures of questionable utility. This is the priority.

Returning to the Ramadan program, what was most moving was that a Jewish participant stood before the crowd of 100 Muslim and Jewish students and faculty and read a poem advocating peace in Arabic, while a Muslim student read a prayer for peace in Hebrew.

When I told the Muslim representative that the prayer had been adapted by Abraham Joshua Heschel, he said, "That’s amazing! I read everything written by Heschel that I can find."

And I thought to myself: "Only on campus."

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller is director of the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA and an instructor in sociology and Jewish studies at UCLA.

Scandal Erupts Over Secret Arafat Funds

Those inclined to look on the bright side might say that Israeli-Palestinian cooperation is alive and kicking: Israelis and Palestinians allegedly joined ranks to make big money, until one of them woke up with a bad conscience.

The joint venture in question began in February 1997, when Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat transferred official Palestinian Authority funds from the Arab Bank in Ramallah to private accounts in Swiss banks. The money was Palestinian, mostly customs and levies on products imported into the Palestinian Authority via Israel.

But, the intermediaries allegedly were Israelis, who in return allegedly received generous commissions — millions of dollars — according to reports in the Israeli media.

The key person allegedly was Yossi Ginossar, a former senior Shin Bet security service officer, and his partner, Ezrad Lev. Ginossar and Lev allegedly succeeded in opening the doors of Switzerland’s Lombard Odier Bank to the Palestinian money. The cooperation allegedly continued until the summer of 2001, well into the intifada.

Like some other former senior officers, Ginossar had been involved in business transactions between Israeli and Palestinian companies ever since the early days of Palestinian Authority rule under the Oslo peace accords. The Palestinians dubbed him "Mr. Five Percent," a reference to the commissions he earned on business deals.

The hidden Swiss accounts eventually grew to more than $300 million. The Israeli partners allegedly managed the accounts, though they were not authorized to make withdrawals.

But then, in August 2001, something unexpected happened: Mohammed Rashid, Arafat’s closest financial adviser, suddenly withdrew approximately $65 million from the account, which then couldn’t be traced.

Lev told the Israeli daily Ma’ariv that he suspected the money was going to finance terrorist activities. He decided that enough was enough, that there was no real control over the money and that it was politically unacceptable that Ginossar — whose extensive business ties had led Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak to use him as an unofficial emissary to the Palestinian Authority — should also be involved in controversial financial transactions with the Palestinians.

Lev, 42, went to the Ma’ariv and disclosed the secret deals in which Ginossar allegedly was involved. He even charged that Ginossar had paid millions of dollars to Rashid to ensure his continued involvement in the accounts.

There was nothing new in the fact that the Palestinian Authority handles its money as though it was the private property of Arafat and his colleagues. At his own discretion, Arafat has allocated funds to various projects — including the financing of terrorist activities — as the Israel Defense Forces learned from documents seized at Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters last spring.

Rampant corruption has enriched the Palestinian political elite, but it also has alienated the leadership from the masses and helped opposition elements, including Hamas, gain in popularity.

What is new is the depth of Israeli involvement in the accounts and the ways in which it undermined international pressure on Arafat to implement fiscal reforms and full financial accountability.

Earlier this year, that pressure forced Arafat to appoint Mohammad Fayyad, a U.S.-trained economist, as his new finance minister. Absent drastic measures to make his financial management more transparent, Arafat knew, the international community might cut off his money supply.

The exposure of the Swiss funds and their alleged connection to Israel hasn’t helped Arafat’s already battered political stock or that of the Israeli left, which negotiated and, in some cases, benefited from the Oslo peace accords.

Ginossar, 55, came to Israel as an immigrant from Vilnius, Lithuania, at the age of 11. After his military service, he joined the Shin Bet, eventually becoming head of counterespionage activities.

He was forced to quit in the mid-1980s after the "Bus 300" scandal, in which Shin Bet agents killed two Palestinians they had taken prisoner after the terrorists hijacked a bus, then tried to blame the killings on top army officers.

For a while, Ginossar failed in his business activities. But the signing of the Oslo accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority allowed him to develop good business connections with the Palestinians. He became so influential behind the scenes, that Rabin began sending Ginossar on confidential missions to Arafat, even when other negotiating channels appeared blocked.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon thought of doing the same, until he realized that Ginossar — deeply involved in the July 2000 Camp David summit talks between Barak and Arafat — was too left wing for Sharon’s political taste. Sharon eventually chose his son, Omri, as his personal envoy to Arafat.

While the ultimate use of the funds in Arafat’s bank account is still unclear, the Ginossar scandal sheds light on the dubious character of financial relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Over the years, Israeli authorities approved the transfer of official Palestinian Authority funds to private accounts, though they knew the money could have been used instead to help hundreds of thousands of Palestinians suffering in the Palestinian territories.

The Israelis believed that financial interactions with the Palestinian Authority — even if not strictly kosher — ultimately would strengthen ties and lead to a peace agreement.

"They believed that the strengthening of the dictator would bring about a strong peace," Natan Sharansky, Israel’s housing and construction minister, said. "The money which was designed to serve the Palestinian people went, with the knowledge of Israel’s governments, to the private bank accounts of Arafat."

Barak used Ginossar’s services at Camp David, even though Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein had warned him not to do so, fearing that Ginossar’s business ties to the Palestinians could create a possible conflict of interests.

Ginossar defended himself as the revelations about the Swiss account surfaced late last week, saying that Israel had taken advantage of his business contacts, not vice versa. "I served the state" in political missions "voluntarily, and I made significant contributions not only to the security of Israel’s citizens but also directly saving lives," he said.

The exposure of the affair, just as the election campaign is kicking off, was like a ripe fruit falling into Sharon’s hands.

"This is an invaluable gift for the election campaign of the Likud, worth more than 1,000 election slots," analyst Aluf Benn wrote in the Ha’aretz newspaper. Like Sharon, the other Likud prime minister to serve in the post-Oslo period, Benjamin Netanyahu, also refrained from using Ginossar’s services.

Both can point to the affair as a foul product of the Oslo accord. Lev, in his Ma’ariv interview, already supplied the ammunition: "I do not blame Yossi Ginossar," he said, "I blame the Israeli leadership, the premiers who operated him, although they knew that he had interests with the other side. The first who identified the problematics of Ginossar’s operation was the current premier and his son. They limited this operation and did not allow it to continue."

Shortly after the story was published in Ma’ariv, Sharon instructed the Mossad to check whether the Swiss accounts were used to finance terrorism. Naomi Blumenthal, deputy minister of infrastructure from Sharon’s Likud Party, demanded the establishment of a state inquiry commission that would examine not just the Ginossar affair but "all those who took part in the negotiations with the Palestinians."

Palestinian Authority officials dismissed the allegations as a smear campaign against Arafat. But Israeli pundits predicted that the scandal would further weaken Arafat’s status among the Palestinians.

Hussein Sheik, secretary-general of Arafat’s Fatah movement in the West Bank, demanded a commission of inquiry "to bring to trial the corrupt people who hide away public money."

Rashid claimed Israel has deliberately used the affair to demonize Arafat in the eyes of the Palestinian public and prevent a smooth process of reform in the Palestinian Authority.

Trauma System in Critical

Angelenos in need of emergency care are facing the threat of longer journeys to fewer facilities. Faced with a projected deficit in excess of $700 million in 2005, the L.A. County Department of Health Services has proposed to shut down two of its hospitals, increasing the burden on remaining hospitals countywide.

To avoid this prospect, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky proposed Measure B, a county ballot measure to generate funds for emergency and trauma care. Measure B would tax all residential and commercial buildings by 3 cents per square foot, effective July 1 of next year. For a 1,500-square-foot home, that would amount to $45 annually. The measure requires endorsement of at least two-thirds of voters in order to pass.

“If you’re a hospital and you have a trauma center or an emergency room, [by law] you must see anyone who’s wheeled through the door or walks through the door,” Yaroslavsky told The Journal. “If a hospital feels it can’t afford [to provide that kind of care], they have one of two choices: They either go broke or they close their trauma center or emergency room in order to salvage what’s left of the hospital.” Closure of a single trauma center or emergency room “will inundate the rest of the system,” he said.

Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance is one of the hospitals slated to close as part of the county’s cost-cutting measures. If that happens, the South Bay would lose its only trauma center. There are currently 13 trauma centers in Los Angeles County, hospitals equipped to deal with the most serious of injuries, such as car accidents and gunshot wounds. Unlike typical hospitals, trauma centers have specialized programs, equipment and staff (including a trauma surgeon) available at all times.

“If we lose one of these centers, it’s just going to critically stress all the rest of them,” said Dr. Daniel Marguiles, head of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s trauma service.

Nontrauma emergency care faces a similar, though slightly less urgent, strain on the system. Emergency care is costly, and the combination of uninsured patients and use of emergency departments for nonemergency conditions taxes the system. The majority of state emergency rooms operate at a loss according to Jan Emerson, vice president of external affairs for the California Healthcare Association. If county plans proceed, the Valley will have one less emergency room when Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar is converted into an outpatient clinic.

The county’s deficit stems from a number of factors, including dramatically declining federal and state support, which exacerbates the challenge of providing health care to the 31 percent of the county’s residents who are uninsured. According to the California Department of Health Services, Los Angeles County trauma centers provide more than $57 million in unreimbursed trauma care annually. The county’s three trauma centers — L.A. County USC Medical Center, Martin Luther King/Charles Drew Medical Center and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center — together handle close to 55 percent of all countywide trauma cases.

Measure B would generate an estimated $168 million annually to preserve and maintain emergency medical services and the trauma system, and to bring trauma services to three areas — Pomona, the eastern San Gabriel Valley and the Antelope Valley — where none currently exist. The measure includes a bioterrorism response component to pay for medications, professional training and other related resources. Supporters include the League of Women Voters, the Hospital Association of Southern California, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) and the director of the county’s Emergency Medical Services Agency.

Opponents say voters are already paying taxes that are supposed to support trauma care, that state budget mismanagement and federal immigration policy are to blame, and that the tax will “open the floodgates for additional taxes,” according to arguments in the sample ballot.

As an alternative to Measure B, Supervisor Michael Antonovich has proposed a voluntary system enabling property owners to contribute to the trauma system by means of a check-off box included on county property tax bills. “While the goal of a source of funding for trauma care is a worthy one, the means of burdening the homeowners with higher taxes is wrong,” Antonovich said of Measure B.

In addition to Antonovich, those listed on the sample ballot as opposed to Measure B include the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the chair of the board of Antelope Valley Hospital and several businessmen.

Los Angeles County Trauma Centers

Los Angeles County currently has 13 trauma centers to serve a population of 10 million residents:

Cedars Sinai Medical Center – Los Angeles

Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles

(pediatric patients only) – Los Angeles

Harbor/UCLA Medical Center – Torrance

Henry Mayo Newhall

Memorial Hospital – Newhall

Huntington Memorial Hospital – Pasadena

L.A. County USC Medical Center – Los Angeles

Martin Luther King/Charles Drew

Medical Center – Los Angeles

Long Beach Memorial Medical Center –

Long Beach

Northridge Hospital Medical Center – Northridge

Providence Holy Cross Hospital – Mission Hills

St. Francis Medical Center – Lynwood

St. Mary Medical Center – Long Beach

UCLA Medical Center – Westwood

Your Letters

Withholding Funds

We are writing in support of the opinion expressed by Steve Berman opposing the policy of United Jewish Communities (UJC) supporting settlers living beyond what will be the revised Green Line (“Withholding Our Funds From Territories,” Aug. 30).

For almost 50 years, we have been significant contributors to the United Jewish Fund, et al., have held many leadership positions and have always been confident that the funds were used to build a strong and secure Israel. We were dismayed to read that there is a new policy where grants are now being given to settlers living in the West Bank. Although we understand the humanitarian purpose behind these grants, in our opinion the UJC is making a political statement by such support, and that is a position we strongly oppose. Continuation of the blanket support of settlements represents a most serious block to any constructive efforts to move forward the Israel-Palestinian peace effort. Therefore, any aid given to the settlers who are living beyond what will be the revised Green Line, even under the banner of humanitarian relief, gives support to the settler movement, which we feel is so destructive of efforts to build a peaceful and secure Israel. We care deeply about Israel and its struggle for survival and healthy growth.

There are many other worthy organizations whose total efforts are aimed at that goal. We find it difficult to continue support of the UJC, whose policy only makes any peaceful solution more difficult. Therefore we strongly urge this policy be re-examined, both at the local and the national level.

Richard and Lois Gunther, Los Angeles

Question of Blood

In Dan Gordon’s article (“A Question of Blood,” May 24) the following appeared:

“I heard a story, which I did indeed find chilling. It was told to me by Dr. David Zangen, chief medical officer of the Israeli paratroop unit, which bore the brunt of the fighting in Jenin.

“Zangen stated that the Israelis not only worked to keep the hospital in Jenin open, but that they offered the Palestinians blood for their wounded. The Palestinians refused it because it was Jewish blood.”

On Aug. 25, there was a meeting in Melbourne, Australia, organized by the State Zionist Council of Victoria. The guest speaker was Zangen. I was not at this meeting, but I understand that Zangen categorically denied ever having said anything like that to Gordon, and denied being aware of any incident in which Palestinians had refused blood from the Israelis.

Harold Zwier, Melbourne, Australia

Dan Gordon responds:

I spoke with some 50 Israeli soldiers, officers and enlisted men, reservists, conscripts and career army personnel on site in Jenin, Bethlehem, Beit Jallah, at military headquarters (the Kirya) in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem. I did not write the article in question until almost a month after my return from Jenin. Could I have misattributed a story told by one Israeli officer to another Israeli officer; in this case, Zangen? Yes.

I did not, however, misattribute who confirmed the story. That was Col. Arik Gordin (Res.) of the Israeli Military spokesman’s office. On May 13, I received the following e-mail from Gordin:

“I made some inquiries about the blood donations. It was confirmed by the spokesman of the office of the coordinator of the government activities in the territories that the Palestinians refused our offer of blood. They said they would not take blood from Israel … in short, the story you heard onsite is true.”

If I misattributed the source of that story to Zangen, I again profoundly apologize. I did not however, misattribute the confirmation of that story, nor misstate it as it was related to me.

A Home for the Holidays

I could not believe my eyes when I read the article about alternative services at local synagogues (“A Home for the Holidays,” Aug. 30). I counted 15 services listed, but not one mention of the Library Minyan at Temple Beth Am.

It does not do it for me to read that “this is just a small sampling….” To exclude Beth Am is somewhat ludicrous, because the Beth Am Library Minyan was the pioneer of alternative services in Los Angeles.

I remember when Rabbi Jacob Pressman introduced the idea, it was greeted with some hesitancy. It grew, and although the name remained the same, it had to move to larger quarters in the synagogue.

I know Julie Gruenbaum Fax is usually very thorough in her research, so I was surprised at this glaring omission.

Marjorie Pressman, Los Angeles


Arab Hatred

Larry Derfner thinks the only reason Israel has problems with the Palestinians is the presence of Israeli settlers and soldiers on the West Bank, “lording it over them” (“The Irrelevance of Arab Hatred,” Aug. 30). He is wrong. The goal of the Palestinian Authority is to destroy the State of Israel and eliminate Jews from the Middle East. Yasser Arafat founded the Palestinian Liberation Organization, with the avowed goal of destroying Israel, at a time when there was no occupation; not one Israeli in all Judea, Samaria or Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority has changed its name, but not its goal, its leadership or its tactics of terrorism. It is the destruction of the Jewish state that Arafat seeks, not an independent state on the West Bank.

Deborah Koken, Costa Mesa


Larry Derfner’s opinion piece is breathtaking in its wisdom. If only the world had been given the benefit of his insight in 1939. An article entitled “The Irrelevance of German anti-Semitism and anti-Slavism” would have prevented those sky-is-falling Jews and Poles and Russians from worrying about the oft-stated Nazi desire to kill or enslave them.

Chaim Sisman , Los Angeles

Jewish ‘Life’ in Simi

The anonymous writer (Letters, Aug. 23) responding to the article “Jewish ‘Life’ Comes to Simi” ( Aug. 9), makes an important point: There is and has long been a diverse and vital Jewish population in the area. Demographics also indicate this an area where Jewish families are moving.

We take pride in the fact that this is truly a community effort and feel compelled to correct two misunderstandings: “I hope the B’nai Emet people find a way to include Chabad.”

First, the Jewish Life Center is a separate entity from Congregation B’nai Emet. B’nai Emet is donating land that will be the site of the Jewish Life Center. The sad fact is that in an area with over 8,000 Jews, there is no permanent home or Jewish center to serve the community: Congregation B’nai Emet leases space in an industrial park and Chabad operates from a modest storefront. Our board is representative of the entire community and includes people such as Margy Rosenbluth, immediate past president of The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance; Arnold Saltzman of Mount Sinai Memorial Parks & Mortuary; and Glen Becerra, the mayor pro tem of Simi Valley.

Second, we have made efforts to include Chabad, discussing with its Simi Valley rabbi such things as creating a Jewish library and designing a kosher kitchen suitable for Chabad functions.

Those of us involved in The Jewish Life Center wish to create a warm, welcoming home where all can gather to share our traditions, culture and values.

Nancy Beezy Micon Board Chair

Mark Friedman Chief Financial Officer

The Jewish Life Center of Simi Valley

Jane Ulman

Thank you for the return of Jane Ulman. Reading her column on Jeremy’s Bar Mitzvah was like turning on a 500-watt light in a darkened room (“The ‘Contemporary’ Bar Mitzvah,” Aug. 9). The column brightened the whole paper.

Elvan L. Spilka Des Moines, Iowa

Ventura Festival

The recent Ventura County Jewish Festival was a great event in a county with a quickly growing Jewish population. Too bad that part of the region snubbed the event altogether.

Thousand Oaks, which is clearly in Ventura County even though it orients itself toward The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, failed to be represented by any congregations or organizations. Simi Valley is further east, but its congregation set up a booth, as did organizations from Los Angeles, including The Jewish Journal. Considering that the festival was held at the new CSUCI campus adjacent to Camarillo, a city that borders Thousand Oaks, these no-shows are sad.

Ventura County is full of Jewish newcomers, Jewish residents who travel into Los Angeles and Jews unaffiliated with the existing congregations. The entire Conejo Valley missed a stellar opportunity to reach out to potential members.

Steve Greenberg , Camarillo

Jewish ‘Life’ Comes to Simi

Having staved off the imminent demise of the area’s only Jewish preschool, Simi Valley’s Congregation B’nai Emet (CBE) is poised to do far more — trade land donated to CBE to meet the needs and ensure the future of the area’s entire Jewish community.

Until 1998, the preschool had been operated by the Jewish Community Center (JCC) at a surplus school site rented from the local public school district. When the Simi Valley preschool learned its lease would end in six months, the JCC decided to close the school. The preschool’s director resigned around the same time. The urgent need to save the city’s lone Jewish preschool served as the catalyst for an intense rescue effort by both the preschool’s parents and CBE.

Nancy Beezy Micon had one child in the preschool and had been in the community for only a year when the crisis arose. "I was concerned about losing this precious preschool, and I was wondering what was going to happen. I was kind of waiting for something to happen and then it dawned on me, if I want to save this preschool, I’d better do something." CBE shared her concern. "There was an immediate reaction that something had to be done," said Michael Hollander, now executive vice president of CBE’s board of directors.

CBE adopted the preschool and the school district agreed to a yearly lease. Melinda Schneider, a teacher at the preschool, became its new director and helped streamline the preschool’s operation to keep the school from running at a loss. Because the public school district might well retake the preschool site for its own needs, the preschool’s future was still uncertain. A permanent solution was needed.

Micon and others had tried to convince developer Kaufman & Broad to donate a 4.74-acre parcel of land as a permanent home for the preschool. About the time CBE stepped in to rescue the school, those efforts paid off, and the land was donated to the congregation. CBE is a largely working-class congregation. Housed in rented industrial space, the land donation finally gave CBE a real chance to build its own permanent home.

Even with the land, however, the congregation soon realized that it could not raise the few million dollars needed to build a modest structure. Ownership of the land was not free — it carried a combined yearly property tax and improvement bond obligation of nearly $20,000. That’s when the debate arose. Should CBE sell and hope that an equally suitable piece of land might become available in the almost fully developed community? Or, should it sell and use the proceeds to reduce dues and offer new programs?

A 1997 survey by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles estimated that there were as many as 8,000 Jews in Simi Valley and neighboring Moorpark. By all accounts, more would come, lured by both low crime rates and low housing costs. How could CBE accommodate their needs? How could a burgeoning Jewish community be served from its rented industrial space?

When the dust settled from the debates, what emerged was a more hopeful solution, one that might benefit not just CBE, but the entire Jewish community for years to come. The Jewish Life Center of Simi Valley (JLC) would be formed and the land would be donated to the new entity. The land would be turned into a community resource, available to all. The planned structure will be open to a variety of Jewish services and organizations, such as Jewish Family Service and Bet Tzedek legal services (both beneficiary agencies of The Federation), vocational services and others. Athletic fields and gathering places are planned. So is a multipurpose room that CBE and others can use.

JLC seated its first board of directors in July, drawing members from throughout the community. These include not just CBE members such as Micon, Hollander and Rabbi Michelle Paskow, but also Glen Becerra, Simi Valley mayor pro tem, and Margy Rosenbluth, president of The Jewish Federation’s West Valley Alliance. It also includes Arnold Saltzman, general manager of Mt. Sinai Memorial Parks, which recently opened its newest facility in Simi Valley.

The JLC board’s primary task at this point is raising funds to build the center. "We need to make a center for Jewish life and learning that’s a part of our lives," Paskow said.

World Briefs

Thousands March for Israel in New

Tens of thousands gathered in New York to salute Israel. Marchers and onlookers filled Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue on Sunday for the annual Israel Day Parade.

Palestinians Fake Jenin Funerals

Palestinians reportedly have been holding phony funerals in the Jenin refugee camp, apparently to make the death toll there appear worse than it is. An Israel Defense Force drone filmed a funeral procession on April 28, during which stretcher-bearers dropped the purported corpse. The “dead” man hopped back onto the stretcher, but the next time he was dropped, he walked away in a huff.

House May Seek More Funds for Israel

Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives are considering adding $200 million in aid to Israel. Congressional sources say the additional money, which has not been earmarked by the White House as part of its annual supplemental aid package, is expected to be debated Thursday by the House Appropriations Committee and could go before the full House next week. Lawmakers passed a resolution last week expressing solidarity with Israel and seeking additional funds for the Jewish state.

Italy Balks at Bethlehem Deal

Italy stood by its refusal to take in 13 Palestinian terrorists holed up in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. Despite U.S. pressure and appeals from the Vatican, Italian officials said Wednesday that the European Union as a whole should deal with the issue of who takes in the 13 men. “I am opposed to it,” the Italian daily La Stampa quoted Deputy Premier Gianfranco Fini as saying. “If we took in the 13 Palestinians, we would be exposing our country to a series of grave risks.” Jordan, Egypt and other Arab nations also have refused to take in the 13.

On Tuesday, Italy complained that it was not sufficiently briefed on the details of a deal for ending the standoff at the church, where more than 100 Palestinians have been surrounded by Israeli troops for more than a month. Under the terms of the deal, Israel and the Palestinians agreed that 13 of the militants wanted by Israel would be exiled to Italy. In addition, some 26 gunmen would be sent to the Gaza Strip, where they would be imprisoned under the watch of American and British jailers, Palestinian sources said. The remaining Palestinians not wanted by Israel would be freed.

Pro-Israeli Dutch Politician Slain

A Dutch politician who often spoke out on behalf of Israel was shot and killed. Right-wing Pim Fortuyn, who often spoke out against Islam and immigration, was shot at close range Monday night, nine days before national elections. Four people who were with Fortuyn at the time of the attack chased the gunmen, and police are now holding a suspect, according to reports. There are no details about the gunman’s identity or motive.

‘Suspicious’ Fire at Oakland

Officials are investigating what they’re calling a “suspicious” fire at a California synagogue. No one was hurt and there was little damage after the fire burned the outside of the Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland. On Sunday morning, firefighters extinguished three small fires at the site and found what appeared to be gasoline around the building. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Anti-Defamation League are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators. The Orthodox shul has ben vandalized before when three security cameras were stolen. — Mike Levy, Staff Writer

Florida JCC Scammed?

Top employees at a Florida Jewish Community Center (JCC) may have bilked the institution of hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to the Palm Beach Post, the State Attorney’s Office is investigating a suspected credit card scam at the Jeanne Levy JCC in West Palm Beach, allegedly involving the top executive and several others. The alleged embezzlement was first discovered by the local Jewish federation, which was suspicious after the JCC overspent its $7 million budget.

U.N. Condems Israel

The U.N. General Assembly approved an Arab-sponsored resolution condemning Israel just hours after a Palestinian terror attack on a Tel Aviv suburb. The 189-member world body condemned Israel’s recent military operation in the West Bank and its rejection of a U.N. fact-finding mission to Jenin. The resolution was approved 74-4, with 54 countries abstaining. The United States voted against the resolution

Swiss Fund Wraps Up

A Swiss fund set up to help needy Holocaust survivors wrapped up its work. Created five years ago, the fund paid out some $180 million to nearly 310,000 people around the world, according to officials. The fund was established after Swiss banks were accused of having close financial ties to the Nazis and of hoarding the contents of long-dormant bank accounts opened by Holocaust victims.

All briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Rescuing the VCJCC

At the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center, the metaphors were dire. "This is like a horrible accident, and we’re the paramedics," Mike Brezner told an advisory committee meeting on Monday night. "All we can do is save the patient’s life. We can’t worry about scars or what caused the accident. We have to save this life so we can ask those questions tomorrow."

Brezner wants the Valley Cities advisory committee to focus on the short- term goal of raising enough funds to keep the center open past Dec. 31. Brezner, the vice president of sales and marketing for a small computer firm, "played hooky at work," organizing the meeting agenda and subcommittee sign-up sheets. With organizing partner Batya Oren, he steered the meeting toward organizing subcommittees to take charge of tasks, like emergency appeals, and media and legal relations.

"I’m just trying to save my children’s future," said Oren, a school teacher and mother of two children in after-school programs.

Part of the problem with setting up an advisory committee, according to those at the meeting, is that no one knows exactly what needs to be done. While some thought the center might be saved temporarily with $200,000, estimates for fundraising ranged as high as $5 million.

"I hear a lot of figures thrown around," said one parent, "Right now, what I want to know is, if this particular JCC were to band together, have some kind of special event, would that help?" Others dispaired over raising any money without access to the JCC’s and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ accounting books to prove the exact figures needed.

Les Paley, a Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA) board member who attended the meeting, later told The Journal, "They aren’t going to open the books. They’re still auditing. The board only found out about this in October."

Not all of the concerned members gathered for the meeting agreed with the focus on fundraising. "If we only try to raise money, we don’t find out what other options there are," said Marc Lizer, whose 2-year-old son attends JCC classes.

Among his suggestions for saving Valley Cities: affiliate with another Jewish organization like a synagogue, do more to attract the local Israeli community and sell Camp JCA Shalom instead of the community centers. Lizer also insisted that the Valley Cities group not work alone. "We have to make sure that we don’t let the Fed[eration] work the JCCs against each other," he said.

Paley’s history with the Valley Cities goes back to the beginning. A past president of the Valley Cities board that was disbanded last year, he helped found the center 42 years ago and sent his three children to JCC programs. His son Aaron Paley co-founded the popular Yiddishkayt L.A. festival. His daughter, Cindy Paley, has recorded eight albums of Jewish music and performs regularly. "What I think would be criminal," Aaron Paley told the Journal, "would be to look at these centers as real estate, not taking into account the investments people have made, the time people have spent and the effort."

Norm Berke, chair of the senior adult committee, expressed the near-helplessness felt by many at the meeting: "This precipitous disaster has caused a lot of heartache. They sold us down the river."

Others noted that some of the senior programs are run by Los Angeles Unified School District. These programs will continue, though maintenance services, such as moving and setting up chairs for meetings, will have to be taken up by volunteers.

"It’s such a sad time. We’re sitting here taking inventory," said Fran Brumlik, director of the Valley Cities, who is unsure about the future of Valley Cities after Dec. 31. "People at this center act with passion, which is good and which is bad. I can’t say it’s always peaceful, but the people here care about the community."

Paula Hoffman, early childhood education director at the North Valley JCC, told The Journal that a group of member parents met Dec. 6 to discuss saving that center. Hoffman declined further comment on the meeting, saying, "There isn’t anything officially going on right now."

Les Paley will be sorry to see any center closed, but holds Valley Cities closest to his heart. "I was at Valley Cities when the building was opened in November 1959," he says. "I said at the last board meeting, I hope I’m not around to say ‘Kaddish.’"

The Hidden Co$t ofJewish Education

My husband Larry and I could be creating a retirement portfolio, renting a vacation villa in Tuscany or buying badly needed furniture.

Instead, we are investing in our four sons, ages 10, 12, 14 and 17. More specifically, we are investing in their Jewish education by shelling out a total of $64,917 — after-tax dollars, for the 2001-2002 school year only — to Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge and Milken Community High School in Los Angeles.

Plus, we will be shelling out another couple thousand dollars for books, trips, lunches and a myriad of incidentals as well as fundraising drives, dinners and wrapping paper sales.

Originally, Larry and I selected Jewish day schools for the convenience of "one-stop shopping." But we quickly discovered, as our oldest, Zack, then in kindergarten, confidently belted out "Dovid Melech Yisroel" in the checkout line at Ralphs, that Jewish day schools give youngsters a solid Jewish identity.

And that identity, as Zack begins his senior year at Milken, has only intensified. "If you’re going to call yourself a Jew," he says, "you need some foundation in Jewish principles and some understanding of modern Jewish thought."

Indeed, day schools, as described in the 1995 Report of the North American Commission on Jewish Identity and Continuity, are "arguably the most impactful single weapon in our arsenal for educating Jewish children and youth."

"Except that they don’t have tackle football teams," Danny, 10, complains.

"Jewish mothers don’t allow their sons to play tackle football," I answer.

But Jewish mothers — and fathers — do allow their children to attend Jewish day schools, in increasing numbers. According to Dr. Gil Graff, executive director of the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), 9,885 students in the Los Angeles area were enrolled in Jewish day schools in grades kindergarten through 12 during the 2000-01 school year. That number has more than doubled from the 4,219 enrolled for the 1980-81 school year.

The increase is a nationwide phenomenon. The latest figures, a day school census released by the New York-based Avi Chai Foundation, published in January 2000, puts the 1998-1999 day school population, for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, at nearly 185,000. This is an increase of more than 25,000 from a study done a decade earlier by Israeli demographer Sergio Della Pergola.

But while both the need and the benefits are obvious, the costs are staggering. And tuition doesn’t even begin to cover them.

In Los Angeles, according to Graff, expenses for the operating budgets of all the Jewish day schools during the 2000-01 year, "not building campaigns, but paying the salaries, keeping the lights on, janitorial service, etc.," came to $96 million. Tuition accounted for $73 million, with 39 percent of all day school students receiving some kind of tuition assistance, which varied from $500 to as much as $8,000. As a result, schools had to scramble to make up the $23-million deficit, with fundraisers, donations and grants, including a $2.3-million contribution from the BJE. And some had to carry on with large deficits.

The problem will only worsen, especially in light of the well-publicized teacher shortage. The Department of Education estimates that public schools will need at least 2 million new teachers in the next 10 years. Private schools face an even greater challenge — 500,000 new teachers over the same time period.

Plus, Jewish day schools, with their extensive Judaic studies and Hebrew language programs, incur additional costs. "We are literally adding another third of a curriculum to an existing curriculum," says Dr. Rennie Wrubel, Milken head of school. "The dual curriculum costs money — and that’s our bottom line."

Wrubel, as well as other day school educators, is looking to the larger Jewish agencies to help with the ever-increasing costs, especially in terms of teacher salaries and benefits, and to help make day school education more affordable to more families.

There are some projects in the works. The Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE), a group of philanthropist partners, is committed to helping day schools across the country develop the resources and expertise to compete on a level of excellence with independent schools.

This October, PEJE is hosting its Second Donor Assembly, giving major supporters of Jewish day school across the country an opportunity to network and learn new strategies. Additionally, PEJE is introducing the Resource Development Expertise Program, which will provide specific day schools with the services of specially trained development consultants. A test program rolls out this fall, beginning with 15 schools.

Locally, The Jewish Federation intends to become more active in this arena. According to Bill Bernstein, executive vice president for financial resource development, there are plans that are part of a larger effort to seek donors to fund specific programs, including day schools.

"The money is there," says Hillel Korin, PEJE’s director of resource development initiatives. "There isn’t a community in the country that can’t support a day school, or two or three or four."

But until Jewish day schools create endowed funds for salaries, scholarships and facilities, families are stuck paying hefty tuitions. For families like ours, affording day school is a matter of changing priorities and making some sacrifices.

But given Judaism’s historical and heartfelt commitment to education and given the success of Jewish day schools in promoting Jewish identity and continuity, many educators and parents believe that a day school education should be a right rather than a privilege. And that’s a decision that will ultimately have to be made by the entire Jewish community.

"The road to learning is endless," Jacob Ben Asher, a 14th-century rabbi, says.

"Endlessly expensive," my husband points out.

He then adds, "But with four boys, it wouldn’t make sense to invest in new furniture."

The Circuit

America’s Sweetheart

Erin Brockovich was the keynote speaker at the sixth Annual Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) “Women of Action” luncheon, which took place Aug. 8 at the Beverly Hilton.

ICRF honored five women of outstanding professional achievements and contributions to the community. Brockovich was joined on the dais by Hedva Amrani Danoff, renowned Israeli singer; Dr. Alexandra Levine, medical director of the USC/Norris Cancer Hospital; Superior Court Judge Marsha N. Revel; and Real Estate Commissioner Paula Reddish Zinnemann. Attorney Edward Masry, who worked with Brockovich to settle the popularized multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric, introduced his colleague. In her address, Brockovich spoke humorously about the accuracy of Julia Roberts’ sassy speech and attire in her Oscar-winning performance. However, her speech turned serious as she spoke about cancer. “The people of Hinkley, California, are my heroes. It was their suffering that had inspired me,” she said, referring to the cancer victims that she and Masry represented. Since the movie, Brockovich has been lecturing around the country at conferences and colleges about the cancer-causing effects of toxic contamination and her crusade for the triumph of the human spirit. Her book, “Take it From Me, Life’s a Struggle, But You Can Win” (McGraw-Hill) comes out this fall, and she will appear in a series of ABC specials. — Orit Arfa

Green Day

Israel Humanitarian Foundation (IHF) held its second annual California Golf Challenge on the greens of the Valencia Country Club. The event, one of three golf tournaments hosted nationwide each year by IHF (Miami, Fla., and Long Island, N.Y., are the others), grossed $40,000 for to help support Cure Autism Now and Israel’s Society for Autistic Children.

A Jolly Good Fellow

Bernard Shapiro, executive director of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, a Houston-based research facility and political action group, announced that local attorney, journalist and author Avi Davis will assume a position as the center’s senior fellow. Davis will be responsible for the development of a Los Angeles branch of the Freeman Center. The center, whose aim is to aid Israel in its survival in a hostile world, was founded by Shapiro in 1992. It has adopted an ambitious expansion plan that involves the establishment of branches in Los Angeles, New York and Israel.

Come Together

Every Sunday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., a small group of concerned Angelenos show up on the corner of Veteran and Wilshire boulevards in support for Israel. L.A. resident Suzanne Davidson planned the demonstrations, which began July 1.

“I had reached my limit on what I was reading in the newspapers,” she told The Circuit, “and the news was so biased against Israel. I have relatives in Israel who felt that they weren’t getting support.” Soft drinks, water and security are all provided.

From week to week, the group has grown from an initial dozen to about 30 people, including Russian and Cuban Jews. Davidson encourages more people to join her.

For more information, call Suzanne Davidson at (818) 395-0414.

Cartoon Networking

On the penultimate panel at the World Animation Festival, held Aug. 7-12, International Creative Management (ICM) animation voice-over agents Larry Hummel and Natanya Rose were among the industry names who gave aspiring vocal artists advice on the protocol of landing gigs on animated cartoons.

“If we’ve taken you on as a client, you have to represent us as well,” Rose said, touching on the importance of being professional. Asked how he broke into the business, the Long Island-raised Hummel replied, “I hopped into my ’73 Oldsmobile Centurion convertible and drove out to L.A. I don’t think anybody goes to their high school guidance counselor and says, ‘I want to be a voice-over casting agent when I get out.'”

Behind Door Number One

Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services raised more than $420,000 for abused and troubled youngsters at its 23rd Annual Sports Sweepstakes. More than 400 people attended the June 11 event at the Beverly Hills Hilton, chaired by Black Equities CEO Stanley Black. Attendees included astronaut Buzz Aldrin and former L.A. Laker Jamal Wilkes. Former “Let’s Make a Deal” host Monty Hall was recognized, at the banquet, for his humanitarian and philanthropy interests.

Charity Obstacle?

With tax cuts the talk of the town, Jewish philanthropic agencies are worried about another part of President Bush’s fiscal plan: the repeal of the estate tax.

Officials of many funds are concerned that charitable giving will suffer if the estate tax, which levies a high tax on the estates of recently deceased individuals, is repealed. Some are calling for reforming rather than ending the tax.

Marcia Hazan, trustee with Foster Family Foundation in San Diego, said she "absolutely" stands to gain if the tax is repealed, "but as my father always says, it’s a privilege to pay taxes. Particularly, I feel that way because I didn’t earn the money; he earned the money."

Hazan and other representatives of family foundations and philanthropies discussed the issue at a Jewish Funders Network meeting last week in Atlanta, where philanthropist Edith Everett called for reform of the estate tax. Everett suggested making adjustments for family farms and people with smaller estates but objected to a repeal.

Everett said that hundreds of people approached her and thanked her for speaking out. "There wasn’t a single person who said, even in a nice way, ‘I disagree,’" Everett said.

Everett and hundreds of other philanthropists, including William Gates, Sr., and George Soros, have signed a petition asking that the estate tax, which many believe serves as an incentive to leave one’s wealth to charity, be preserved. Responsible Wealth, a project that brings together people who are concerned about increasing economic inequality, are organizing the petition.

The Bush Administration argues that the estate tax, or so-called death tax, impedes economic growth because it levies another layer of taxes on people and creates a disincentive for seniors who want to save money for their children or grandchildren.

Only the wealthiest 2 percent of all estates pay any estate tax at all.

Some studies have estimated that repeal of the estate tax could reduce charitable gifts and bequests by close to $6 billion annually.

Jewish organizations have stayed quiet on the issue, worried about offending some of their biggest donors if they take an unpopular stance. United Jewish Communities, the North American Jewish community’s central fundraising and social services agency, has not taken a position.

Others close to the issue note that while no one gives to charities simply because of the estate tax, it does provide a powerful incentive. The warning, then, is that those contemplating charitable gifts will still give something if the tax is repealed but may give significantly less.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is looking into the issue, and while the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations has not come out officially against the proposed change, its Commission on Social Action has spoken out against it.

Another major concern is lost revenue to the government, which could mean cuts in services and programs if the estate tax is repealed. Some estimates show that eliminating the estate tax would cut $28 billion from the government’s coffers.

The repeal of the estate tax is drawing more attacks than the rest of the 10-year, $1.6-trillion Bush plan for cutting taxes.

An executive at one Jewish nonprofit said she views the estate tax as a codification of Jewish beliefs into law.

"Tax cuts that benefit the wealthy are unfair and are not the best reflection of Jewish values," she said.

More than Neutrality?

Advocates of President Bush’s charitable-choice plan have somehow managed to squeak by a basic premise of their argument — that there is a unique therapeutic power of religious-based social programs. For this they offer personal anecdotes but no proof. Even Steven Goldsmith finally admitted this during a recent NPR interview in which he answered “no” when asked if there was hard proof of faith-based efforts being more effective.

With no proven effectiveness, why has the debate even continued? The problems of joblessness, homelessness, and drug and alcohol addiction are too high-stakes of a game to risk a total system overhaul, particularly one whose implementation creates unsolvable dilemmas and raises the most severe constitutional issues. Even the Bush administration has decided to postpone implementation of the program, conceding that the proposal “may need to be corrected in some areas.”

The president has not offered additional funds for charitable choice programs — only the elimination of guidelines that precluded religious groups from sponsoring programs if they couldn’t help from commingling their religious teachings. Since the budget hasn’t grown, as new religious programs open, secular ones will be closed.

Charitable choice requires that there always be a secular alternative, but even advocates concede that this may not always be possible in small communities, and that in any case secular program choices will diminish. It is abhorrent that we may force a person to choose between religious indoctrination and going without food or shelter.

The federal funding of religious programs has become a discussable matter only since Justice Black’s “high and impregnable” wall between church and state, which long dominated legal thinking, has gradually been reinterpreted as one that puts religion on more “neutral” grounds with other speech. Charitable-choice advocates have tried to argue that religious groups have been victims of discrimination in competing for federal monies, but religious groups have been receiving federal funds and administering programs for decades. Neighborhood churches have been free to provide services; the only limitation was that they could not use federal funds to inculcate religious teachings. It is spurious to argue that their free-exercise rights are restricted because the government will not fund their religious teachings, even in the context of an assistance program. What changes with charitable choice is that religious groups are not just eligible to administer the programs but can make the programs themselves religious.

The mastermind of charitable choice was none other than John Ashcroft, the man who declared that in America “we have no king but Jesus.” It is also no coincidence that the program was implemented by a man who once proposed a state Jesus Day while serving as Texas governor. Might it be that either of these men wants something other than just “neutrality”? The president has answered that himself on the multiple occasions he has said that religious groups should be our “first” alternative.

That’s what has happened in California, where the state earmarked $5 million exclusively for faith-based programs — secular needn’t apply! The American Jewish Congress has filed suit, arguing that this is reverse discrimination against secular groups.

When challenged by the establishment clause, federal charitable-choice advocates say that they will be neutral. But what definition of neutrality would be compatible with the First Amendment? Funding of all religions equally? Funding in proportion to the general population? To the population in need? According to objective standards? And what would the standard be, and whom do we trust to make it?

For instance, consider a faith-based drug treatment program with the lowest recidivism rate of any group. Being the most effective, it would then presumably receive the most federal money and grow in infrastructure and influence relative to other religions — all on the government’s dime. That clearly would be an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Should methods be considered? What if this religious group owed much of its success to sleep deprivation, unusual diets, chanting and group pressure? Should an endpoint be considered beyond mere recidivism? What if after treatment their lives consisted of dancing, living isolated from society, not speaking to their parents and soliciting funds in airports? Would it still deserve funding? Would cults be eligible, and who would define what is and isn’t a cult? We don’t want a public debate on whether the Church of Scientology is a bona fide religion.

What if the group taught hate or intolerance? The administration has already issued conflicting statements on whether the Nation of Islam would be funded. Does anyone expect that Christian groups that preach hatred of homosexuals might be excluded? Might some hates be more tolerated than others? The administration must assure the public it will not finance hate groups while at the same time maintaining “neutrality.” These two positions are irreconcilable.

Religious leaders on the Christian right are voicing their concern, including Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. The establishment clause has most often been viewed as protecting citizens from having religion forced upon them. But it is also a potent way of keeping the government out of religion and insulating the autonomy of churches. Once a religious group accepts federal money, it will be subject to new government regulations and intense public scrutiny.

America has also enjoyed the benefits of its government being criticized by a strong religious community in the peace, antiwar and civil rights movements. As they become dependent on maintaining government grants, this autonomy to speak their conscience would likely erode.

The ultimate outcome of this matter, no doubt, will come not from the editorial pages of our newspapers but from our highest court. Hopefully, the words of Sandra Day O’Connor that “any use of public funds to promote religious doctrines (or) advance the religious message” violates the constitution, will be heeded when this case is heard.


A Wheel of a Deal

The Edelstein Family Charitable Foundation has donated $10,000 to Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles toward the weekend provision of its home-delivered meals program.

A Rosy Future

Everything’s coming up roses for 33-year Tournament of Roses volunteer Ronald Okum, a member of Adat Shalom who became a bar mitzvah at B’nai David-Judea Congregation. He’s been tapped as president of the 2002 Tournament of Roses Parade, the 113th staging of this beloved Pasadena tradition, themed “Good Times.”

Leaders of the Packs

A litter of Cub Scout packs met at Kenneth Hahn Park for a joint interfaith religious service and tree-planting ceremony, followed by lunch and games. Among those in attendance were Cub Scout Pack 848, affiliated with the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, and Cub Scout Pack 36, affiliated with Adat Ari El in Valley Village.

“Our goal is to have fun, introduce our children to others of varying backgrounds, develop relationships and encourage mutual understanding and appreciation of each other’s cultures,” said Pack 36’s cubmaster, Maurice Levin.

Roll Out the Welcome Wagon

Jewish Big Brother/Camp Max Straus held its 85th annual Installation of Officers and Board Recognition Meeting on Feb. 22 at the Four Seasons Hotel. At the gathering, Brad Rosenberg succeeded outgoing board president Karl Sussman … Rabbi Joseph Telushkin has become scholar in residence at the Jewish Community Centers Association thanks to an endowment established by Syril and Leonard Rubin of Tenafly, N.J.

Honorable Mentions

Trial lawyer/philanthropist Sanford M. Gage will be honored with the Maimonides Torch of Justice Award on March 30, presented by the Legal Services Division of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles at its 53rd annual gala, to be held at the Regent Beverly Wilshire… Janice and Benjamin Reznik will be honored at the Sixth Annual Circle of Life Award Gala Dinner, sponsored by the Jewish Home for the Aging. The presentation will take place at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino… Beverly Hills-based attorney Barry Friedman, a partner at Friedman, Heller & Enriquez, LLP, was among the recipients of the 2000 Men of Achievement Award from the Century City Chamber of Commerce Women’s Business Council… American Jewish Congress held its 2001 Tzedek Awards at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Honored at the event: Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer and attorneys Mark Holsher and Richard Myers of O’Melveny and Myers; Brian Sun and Heather Hirsch of O’Neill, Lysaght and Sun; and Nancy Hollander, K.C. Maxwell and John Cline of Freedman, Boyd and Daniels.

Relief for Quake Victims

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles donated $10,000 to CARECEN, a center for Angelenos from Central America, toward relief for victims of the recent El Salvador earthquakes.

Star of Red Magen David

American Red Magen David for Israel (ARMDI) will be honoring Dr. Yzhar Charuzi a consultant cardiologist in private practice and clinical and a Professor of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine. The ARMDI Humanitarian Award will be given to Charuzi at its gala on March 4 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

The cardiologist — founder of Save a Heart Foundation — is being honored for his dedication to the enhancement of cardiology to the U.S. and Israel. Co-chairing the event will be Gabriella Bashner and Ruth Flinkman.

“We are proud to be honoring a man of Dr. Charuzi’s stature,” said Bashner.

“There is a critical need to raise funds now to replace the 51 ambulances damaged or lost in the latest civil unrest in Israel,” said Flinkman.

ARMDI is the sole support arm in the U.S. for Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s Red Cross and paramedic service.

For more information regarding this event, call (8l8)752-1711.

Pride and Prejudice

More than 200 seventh graders came together at the University of Judaism for the 5th Annual Prejudice Awareness Summit, a forum on race relations. Keynote speaker was Dr. Terence J. Roberts, a member of 1957’s Little Rock Nine, the first black students to attend a formerly segregated public school in Arkansas.

Process of Payments

Virtually all Jews locked up in concentration camps, ghettos and similar places of incarceration during the Holocaust may now apply for compensation from a newly created $5 billion German foundation. And on Feb. 5, the names of 21,000 probable Holocaust victims whose dormant accounts still sit in Swiss banks were posted on the Internet.

These two efforts are the first major attempts to see that survivors and their heirs begin to realize the fruits of talks that started with Swiss negotiations five years ago. The Swiss negotiations resulted in a court-approved $1.25 billion fund being established, 80 percent of which has been set aside to pay the heirs of those who had money in bank accounts the Swiss hoarded.

While applauding steps to begin the distribution, Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said he was "appalled that the total going to lawyers is on the order of $100 million from both of these funds." The figure was either negotiated or court ordered and represents a fraction of the total.

Survivors and their heirs are asked to complete applications if they believe they qualify for money from either fund. Applications can be downloaded from the Internet or obtained from toll-free numbers and at several locations in greater Los Angeles (see box, below).

As many as 170,000 Jewish survivors worldwide are expected to apply for the German money, which is designed to compensate slave and forced laborers. Those who were slave laborers may receive up to $7,500, forced laborers up to $2,500.

As part of Hitler’s Final Solution, Jews were forced to perform labor under the harshest of conditions as one way of exterminating the Jews of Europe. Therefore, all those thrown into concentration camps, ghettos and other areas of confinement are considered former slave laborers and thus entitled to compensation. Forced laborers are those who were made to work in areas under Nazi or Axis occupation during World War II under conditions not included in the definition of a slave laborer.

Claims will be accepted from former slave or forced laborers except those currently residing in Poland, the Czech Republic and other former Communist nations. Their respective national foundations will process their claims. Certain heirs of former laborers who died on or since Feb. 16 are also eligible.

Those who received previous payments from a private German industry fund for slave and/or forced labor will have such payments deducted from the amount they will now receive. This fund is independent of other funds and requires new applications. Payments will be made in two stages, with the second amount dependent on the number of people who apply. Applications must be filed by Aug. 11.

To obtain an application to apply for money under this fund, call (800) 697-6064 or go to the Web site Information is available on the Web site in seven languages.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany will help administer the fund. It estimates that as many as 50,000 survivors in the United States and Canada are eligible for the money.

"Nothing can make whole again the horrors during the Third Reich," said Rabbi Israel Miller, president of the Claims Conference. "But survivors have received some justice through Germany’s recognition of its moral obligation to create this fund."

Half of the foundation’s money will come from the German government and the rest from more than 5,000 of the country’s businesses, including Volkswagen, Daimler-Benz, Bayer and Siemens. Most German industry and business benefited from slave or forced labor during the Holocaust.

In the Swiss case, applications for those who believe they are heirs of Holocaust victims whose money still sits in Swiss banks are available. To obtain an application form, call (800) 881-2736, or visit one of the following Web sites:, or

Although 26,000 names were to be posted, Michael Bradfield, a special master appointed by Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Edward Korman, said the number was reduced to 21,000 because of a duplication of names. He said a special team of auditors headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker found that there were 36,000 dormant accounts probably opened by Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. But in a compromise with Swiss banks, only 21,000 will be posted.

Bradfield said that anyone who believes he or she is the heir of a Holocaust victim who had a Swiss account should complete the application form whether or not the victim’s name is posted on the Internet. Even those who paid a Swiss ombudsman to search Swiss bank records and were told no account existed should apply.

"The ombudsman didn’t look where [the auditors] looked," said Bradfield. "We have a lot of accounts that were closed that the ombudsman never looked at."

He stressed that the entire process is free, and there is no need to hire a lawyer. The deadline for filing applications is in six months; Bradfield said he expected 100,000 claims to be filed. He said it is expected to take two years to review and act on each application and that every filing will be acknowledged. Once a determination is made, a letter will be sent explaining the disposition. Under Swiss law, the names can be kept confidential, but the dollar amounts will be made public.

Those applying for dormant funds will be asked to provide "plausible information to demonstrate that they have a legitimate relationship [to the person on the list] and that they would be the heir under normal inheritance laws," Bradfield said. "We are looking for plausible evidence, taking into account the destruction of documents, the disruption of the war and horrible persecution."

These local agencies are offering applications for payments from the fund for slave and forced laborers:

Los Angeles
(310) 271-3306;
(323) 937-5900
(818) 984-1380
West Hollywood
(323) 851-8202

Santa Monica
(310) 393-0732
Bet Tzedek:
(323) 549-5883
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust:
(323) 761-8170

Chabad’s Big Bash

Chabad’s Big Bash

The annual telethon offers a mix of celebrities,entertainment and appeals for necessary funds

By Rob Eshman, Associate Editor

Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin will once again be joined by JonVoight (left) and Jan Murray (right), at Chabad’s annualtelethon.As sure as the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, thedancing rabbis are returning to TV stations nationwide for the annualChabad telethon. Nothing in modern culture quite compares, or quiteillustrates just how topsy-turvy modern culture can be: Here areOrthodox rabbis in traditional 17th-century Polish noble garb dancingwith Hollywood stars in Armani suits, espousing lines of ancientTorah via the most advanced satellite technology, giving acenturies-old pitch for charity, and taking payment via credit card.What a wonderful world….

This year’s telethon will take place on Sunday, Sept. 7, from 5p.m. to midnight, on UPN Channel 13. Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, theWest Coast director of Chabad and founder of the telethon 17 yearsago, will lead the marathon endeavor, and comedian Freddie Roman willhost. Among the stars slated to show up — and eventually dance withthe rabbis — are James Caan, Mayim Bialik, Tony Curtis, Sid Caesar,Fyvush Finkel, Estelle Getty, Jan Murray, Tony Danza, Judd Nelson,Jon Voight, Regis Philbin, Edward James Olmos, Shelley Winters, theLimelighters, the Tokens and Ed Ames. Producer Jerry Weintraub ischairman of the event.

Last year, Chabad raised $4 million, which it says goes to supportits community-outreach and drug-rehabilitation programs and youth andsummer camps. This year, according to Chabad representative (and oneof Rabbi Cunin’s 13 children) Chaim Cunin, they hope to raise “abillion.” He’s only half-kidding, of course.