Federation campaigns may aid victims across Green Line

The umbrella group of North American federations won overwhelming approval for its 2002 budget, despite cuts in regional staffing and in subsidies for its missions program. The budget cuts come as crises in Israel and Argentina, along with a rise in global anti-Semitism, have spurred the Israel Emergency Campaign, the federations' largest special fund-raising effort since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The campaign has raised more than $265 million since it began in October 2001.

At the June 10 meeting, the UJC unanimously approved a resolution to allow relief and rehabilitation funds from the Israel Emergency Campaign, or any other UJC funds, to be used to help "any Jew in need without regard to geography or any other consideration."

That would include settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, areas that Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

In the past, UJC money was spent only within the Green Line, as the pre-1967 border is known.

According to a charter it inherited from the United Jewish Appeal, the UJC had subscribed to an internationally agreed upon definition of Israel, which excludes the territories it gained in the Six-Day War.

Gail Hyman, UJC's senior vice president of marketing and public affairs, said "broadening the policy allows the organization to help Israelis regardless of where they live.

"The events in Israel over the last 20 months have to a great degree been behind the desire to revisit the UJC charter that was inherited at the time of the merger and to make sure that the new UJC board's understanding of that charter was clear and understood by all."

Hyman said UJC's leadership had been working to bring a revision before the board for several months.

Bay Area federation directors did not foresee any objections coming from board members to the policy.

Emphasizing that the funds would go strictly to victims of terrorism and not for infrastructure in the settlements, Sam Salkin, chief executive officer of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, said, "This is strictly a humanitarian decision, not a political statement. It starts with the premise that Jews around the world are all responsible for one another, and services to individuals should be provided to wherever they live."

Ami Nahshon, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay, said current conditions in Israel caused the UJC's policy to be re-evaluated. "It seems strange that our campaign dollars would go everywhere in the world except for in the territories. If you're in the Albanian Jewish community, they will reach you with services; if you're in Ariel, there are different rules."

Jon Friedenberg, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater San Jose, said as he was soliciting for the Israel Emergency Appeal, the question did come up several times. But "even those that have the most problem with the settlements and settlers understood the policy relative to victims of terror fund," he said.

Israel Emergency Campaign funds will go toward providing safe summer camps in Israel, assisting special immigration efforts from Argentina, enhancing Israel's emergency rooms and trauma centers, and paying for a fund for victims of terrorism.

Richard Wexler, a member of UJC's budget committee, called the resolution "totally consistent" with "both UJC's charter and its mission" and the interest of "our donors."

Regarding the trimmer-than-usual budget, UJC President and CEO Steven Hoffman believes the cuts address current needs and respond to the demands of its member federations, many of which have complained of a bloated budget.

UJC is "making adjustments in services we thought needed to be radically altered," he said, citing as an example the reform in UJC's regional staffing to better serve the needs of member federations.

Meeting in Chicago, the UJC's Delegate Assembly — consisting primarily of representatives of the North American federations — passed the budget with only a handful of abstentions and nays.

The major cuts in UJC's total budget came to its regional staff or consulting department, which served as liaisons to local federations. It was cut by approximately 38 percent, with 16 staff members laid off, office closures in Chicago and South Florida, and a move of the New Jersey office to UJC's Manhattan headquarters.