Hebrew Acadamy petition urges Koret to restore grant

Spurned for a grant this year, the Lisa Kampner Hebrew Academy in San Francisco has compiled a petition of more than 2,000 signatures in an effort to spur the Koret Foundation to rethink its decision.

The foundation, however, made it abundantly clear that its decision is final.

Susan Wolfe, Koret’s director of communications, said, “We don’t discuss our grant-making decisions. Our board makes decisions all the time. And we don’t meet with our grant applicants,” she also noted that no other agency has ever petitioned Koret after being turned down for a grant.

The petition comes on the heels of a widely circulated e-mail earlier this year that accused Koret of “discriminating” against the academy and its student body, which is largely comprised of émigrés from the former Soviet Union.

In February, Tad Taube, Koret’s president, responded angrily to that charge, accusing the Hebrew Academy of wantonly showering the community with allegations and confusing a potential yearly grant with an entitlement.

Taube told j. that Koret has been supporting the school “on and off” since the 1990s, and had given the school “probably something in the six figures” in total.

The petition accuses Koret of “borderline criminal” behavior in declining to fund the Hebrew Academy, yet providing a donation to the “Catholic-affiliated University of San Francisco.”

The foundation’s bylaws call for it to give half of its grants to non-Jewish institutions.

“There are 60,000 members in the Russian community of San Francisco, and we take it as a personal attack on us for you to stop supporting a Jewish school that consists of an 80 percent Russian Jewish student body,” the petition concludes.

Yelena Giderman and Yan Brunshteyn, members of the school’s graduating class of 2004 and the petition’s co-organizers, mailed a packet of 44 pages of signatures to j, comprising well over 1,200 handwritten signatures. Online at www.petitionkoret.com, 847 additional signers have joined the petition as of press time.

Giderman did not return calls, and Brunshteyn refused to discuss the petition with j. on the phone.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.