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August 14, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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August 14, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 14, 2009 Q By Adam Dickter New York Jewish Week NEW YORK--As they explored common ground during a busy mission to New York last month, an interna- tional delegation of rabbis and imams found it easy to agree on one thing: They wanted to see the Yankees beat the Orioles. And thanks to a walkoff homer by H ideki Matsui, they got their wish with a 2-1 Yankees victory. After a day packed with conferences, the game was a welcome chance to unwind. Earlier in the day the group visited the United Nations Going to bat for Muslim-Jewish ties and World Jewish Congress and: in a sight rarely seen at a mosque, men with yar- mulkes doffed their shoes to listen to a panel discus- sion alongside worsh~ers crouched in daily prayer at the Islamic Cultural Center on East 96th Street. Later, they gathered in a luxury box as guests of the Yankees, with a lavish kosher buffet of shish kebab, humrnus, hot dogs and mini- hamburgers. The four-day mission was convened by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding to build support for an initiative to twin mosques and syna- gogues in Europe for joint programs and an exchange of visits on Nov. 13-15. Fifty such pairs partici- pated in last year's program. After a long history of fostering ties between Jews and African Americans here, the foundation in the past two years has switched its focus to Jews and Muslims, says Rabbi Marc Schneier, president and co-founder of the group. Most of the 29 participants were from Europe, where a rising tide of Islamic extrem- ism has triggered alarm in Jewish communities. Sheikh Muhammad A1 Hussaini of London told The Jewish Week the extremist rise stems from "the inabil- ity of the older generation to engage" the offspring of immigrants from Muslim countries. "[The immigrants] come from a more radical Islam that is a bit more inappropri- ate for the situation in which they now find themselves," said Imam Hussaini, whose family came from Iraq to the United Kingdom in the 1960s. If the newcomers are unable to become fully engaged within their mosque com- munities, he added, "they turn to'Sheikh Google'--the Internet," where many are drawn to extremism. While Imam Hussaini grew up with Jewish friends in Lon- don public schools and now teaches an interfaith program at the Leo Baeck rabbinical college in Finchley, he says, "I meet people every day who have never met a Jew in their lives, which makes these kinds of interactions very important." Rabbi Avichai Apel, an Or- thodox rabbi from Israel who serves the Jewish commu- nity in Dortmund, Germany, has a good working relation- ship with a local imam and plans to participate in the twinning weekend. PAGE 15A He notes the irony that Jews in Germany feel some- what safer from the anti- Semitism that has plagued other communities. But there are still plenty of worries. "There are a lot of [neo]- Nazis, but I can tell you today that most of the anti- Semitic probleinas come from Muslims," said the rabbi. The mission also included visits to City Hal!, the U.S. Holo- caust Memorial Museum, the State Department and White House. Reprinted with permission from the New York Jewish Week, www.jewishweek, com. Recession's ripples felt by nonprofits across the country By Jacob Berkman NEW YORK {JTA)--Despite some optimistic reports that the recession mightbe nearing an end. the philanthropic and nonprofit worlds are just now starting to come to grips with what the past year of plummet- ing fund raising has wrought. While the Jewish commu- nity has seen its major national organizations and smaller local agencies lay off hundreds of employees over the past year in efforts to make quick strike budget cuts. most of them were done before the real carnage of the recessionwas even realized. Recent reports by the Foun- dation Center, which keeps tabs on more than 2.000 pri- vate foundations, and Charity Navigator. an online watchdog group, have estimated that foundations have seen on av- erage a 30 percent dip in their assetsover the past year and are cutting their giving across the board. As a result, nonprofits are in full cutback mode. It will be months or years until the full effect that the recession has had on the Jewish landscape becomes clear. But a quick scan two weeks ago of Jewish newspapers from across the county provides a glimpse of the damage: According toThe NewYork Jewish Week, the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan's Upper East Side is going ahead with plans to shutter its 30,000-volume Buttenweiser Library in favor of a smaller, lower cost high- tech resource center. The move apparently will save the Y $375,000 per year. according to an e-mail from the orga- nization's executive director. Sol Adler. The closure has caused an outrage, especially among the Y's older patrons, with critics collecting 340 signatures for a petition against the move. But the Y shows no signs of back- ing down. The Washington D.C. JCC is set to lose 60 percent of a $250,000 grant that it received from the Neighborhood Invest- ment Fund for a variety of arts ventures, according to the Washington Jewish Week. The cuts come as Washington, D.C., wrestles with a $666 million budget fall. And the JCC could lose even more funding for its senior citizens' programs. The center already lost a $60,000 grant from the Iona Senior Services. aWashington-based elderly ad- vocacy organization that paid for the center's senior kosher lunch program. "There still probably will be additional cuts," Mark Spira. the JCC's chief development officer, told the Washington paper, adding, "There may be no grants [at all] this year. and we need to plan for that eventuality." The Jewish community in Milwaukee has been hit by a double whammy, as the Mil- waukee Jewish Federation has seen a decrease in donations and the areas largest Jewish foundation, the Helen Bader Foundation, has said it will significantly cut its funding of Jewish projects, accord- ing to the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle. The foundation. which is set to spend all of its money by 2019, will continue to fund an endowment for Jewish day schools in Milwaukee and give $500,000 per yearto the scholarship fund it started. To meet those commitments, however, it will stop grants to other local Jewish projects and will close its Jewish Life and Learningprogramarea, accord- ing to the Wisconsin paper. In addition, the foundation will stop funding its Israel-based Early Childhood Development grants and close its Israel office at the end of 2009. TheBader foundation, which has given $28 million over the past 17 years to Jewish causes, will honor the multi-year grants that it has already an- nounced, including $5 million committed to causes in Israel over the next 10 years. The Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix reported that it took in 13 percent less in 2008 than it did in 2007, raising $5.2 million for its annual cam- paign, according to the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. The campaign shortfall has led to budget cuts, as the federation will allocate $3.8 million to the Jewish community, including $1.9 million to lol~l projects and $1.6 million to-'Ihe federa- tion system's overseas partners, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The allocation to the areas. JFCS Center for Senior En- richment was reduced from $136,773 last year to $33.589 this year, the Phoenix paper reported. The federation cut its allocation for overseas projects run by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee from $1.97 million last year to $1.59 million this year. This article was adapted from JTA's philanthropy blog, The Fundermentalist at http:// Proposed civil marriage bill in Israel misses mark By Gilad Kariv JERUSALEM (JTA)--The promoters of Israel's. new bill for civil marriage for those without religion are hurrying to present it as a significant and historical legal breakthrough, but actually it's nothing other than political trickery. According to the proposed legislation, couples thatdo not belong to any of the recognized religions in Israel will be able to register in a civil union and enjoy the same rights one would in a legal marriage. The bill supposedly would solve the troubles of 300.000 Israeli citizens who cannot marry in their land because technically they have no religion. Practically, however, this law will fail to achieve its intended goal and will not provide a solution to the de- pressing problem of tens of thousands ofcoupleswho may not wed because they don't fit the narrow parameters allowed by the state. The biggest problem with the bill is that it applies only to couples in which neither partner has a religion.Acouple inwhich one member is an im- migrant whose Jewish status is not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate and the other is a Jew still would not be able to marry. In order to have their marriage recognized by Israel, such couples still will need to travel abroad and wed in a foreign country for Israel to recognize their union. Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics says that of the 31.655 Israeli couples that were married outside of Israel from 2000 to 2005. only 1,219 couples (less than 4 percent) would have been able to benefit from this law. Nearly 90 percent of the immigrants who do not have. a religious classification marry a Jewish spouse, meaning that the passage of this law will have little bearing on its intended population. As if that weren't enough, this law would create a blacklist of couples who do marry this way. This problem was born in the mass immigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, wherein many olim fit the criteria of the Law of Return by having a Jewish father or grandparent but not a Jewish mother. Not identifying themselves as Christian. and not receiving official Jewish status from the state, they were classified as having no religion. (Ironically, religion in Russia was determined by the father.) What an absurdity in the state of the Jewish people that a Hebrew-speaking couple can marry only after a public denialoftheir Jewish identities and connection to the Jewish people. This proposed law provides an unfitting solution and an opportunity missed. Under these civil umons, couples must wait until 18 months have passed from the moment they register as a couple in order to enjoy the rights that married couples receive immediately, such as receiving an inheritance. adoption or naturalization. The supporters of this ini- tiative insist that it's a crack in the walls of the Orthodox monopoly and in the future the crack will expand further. A closer reading of the legisla- tion exposes the rift between the claims 0fits supporters and the sad reality of its potential outcomes. According to the proposal, the couples who will benefit from the law also will have to request permission from the Chief Rabbinate to af- firm that they indeed are not Jewish. As if we haven't heard enough horrific stories of new immigrants having to jump through hoopsto prove they are Jewish, this proposal will create another set of hurdles. Olim without an official re- ligious status now will have to prove they are not Jewish. It will be the first time that Israeli legislation will give rabbinic courts power over Israel's non-Jewish citizens. This law will be the tomb- stone on the grave of the gov- ernment's obligation to solve the problem of non-Orthodox marriage in Israel. It creates a dangerous illusion of progress at a time when we should be speaking about more creative ways to solve this urgent issue. Every person should have the right to-marry as they choose and in a way that fits with their conscious. Rabbi Gilad Kariv is the executive director of the Israeli Reform movement.