Two weeks after former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told The Jewish Standard that the best thing the American Jewish community can do for Israel is not to raise money but get the U.S. government to "stop Iran," current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appealed to American Jews for hundreds of millions of dollars prompting local philanthropist Angelica Berrie to step up with a $’ million gift for the Jewish state.
Olmert spoke via Webcast to members of United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization for North America’s 155 local federations, to urge them to help the UJC raise $300 million for the organization’s Israel Emergency Campaign.
"I know you are thinking that we are fighting against Hezbollah," said Olmert. "But let’s face it, we are fighting against Iran and Syria, who are using Hezbollah to attack Israel from the north. For the first time in the entire life of Israel, it is not just the soldiers who are fighting, but the entire country . They want to destroy us and uphold the promise made by the president of Iran that Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth . This is the time when we expect you, our friends, to come over here and share with us the burden and the challenge we are going against in this war."
At the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s offices in River Edge, UJA-NNJ campaign director Ken Saibel urged lay and professional leaders to support the IEC, which, he said, could eventually become a campaign for $500 million, or even $1 billion, depending on how long the war with Hezbollah lasts.
UJA-NNJ announced last week that it was trying to raise $5 million for the UJC campaign, but it upped that number to $6 million after the Russell Berrie Foundation pledged a $’ million matching gift toward the effort.
The foundation will match 50 cents for every dollar raised, up to $’ million, according to UJA-NNJ officials.
The foundation’s president, Angelica Berrie, told the Standard via e-mail from London that the board decided to make the matching grant because its members are concerned about Israel’s survival, and they hope the matching grant will encourage others to contribute as well.
The foundation, which gave out $18,065,’44 in grants in ‘005, has made larger one-time donations to Israeli scientific research and educational institutions, but never before made one so large to an Israel Emergency Campaign, said Berrie.
Berrie, who converted to Judaism last year, holds a board of trustees retreat in Israel each year and was there when Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were kidnapped by Hezbollah, sparking the now month-long military conflict. (See page 7.)
"Jews have always lived under threat not just in Israel but in places like France and the U.K., where anti-Semitic feeling is getting stronger each day," she said. "We have to be more visible in standing up and saying, ‘Why us, why always us?’ and show the world that we cannot be trod upon or treated unfairly in relation to every other country just because Israel is a Jewish state. There is a limit to the pressure the world can put on Israel, and Jews in North America must stand even more solidly behind Israel not just in times of war but even in times of peace."
This is the second time in six years that the UJC has run an Israel Emergency Campaign, the first coming after the start of the second intifada in September ‘000.
Edward J. Dauber, a co-chair of the UJA-NNJ campaign, was the president of the UJA Federation of Bergen County and North Hudson, the UJA-NNJ’s predecessor, during the first IEC, which locally raised between $6 million and $7 million, he said.
The federation will launch a series of parlor meetings to get the local drive started the first of which will appeal to 110 of the federation’s major donors at the Franklin Lakes home of Judy Opper, the UJA-NNJ’s IEC co-chair. Those invited to that meeting are donors who had previously given one-time contributions larger than $10,000, she said, but "everyone has to step up to the plate. We need the entire Jewish community to be involved," she said.
Dauber said that the federation was also planning a synagogue campaign to reach out to those who have not given to the federation in the past.
"There is no doubt that as this war extends, the need grows and grows," said Dauber. "In a nutshell, we need people to dig as deep as they can into their pockets. They need to do the easy job and write a check. We aren’t in the bomb shelters, and we haven’t had our businesses closed for a month, and we haven’t had to move out of our homes for a month like the Israelis. We’re sitting here in relative comfort and we can help do what we can financially."
For more information about the IEC, visit www.ujannj.org.
Squeezing money from rocks
Artistic Tile, a Secaucus-based importer of luxury stone and tile, has announced that it is re-launching its "Jerusalem Stone Campaign," which raised some $100,000 in ’00’ for the UJC’s last Israel Emergency Campaign.
The company will donate all of its "net profits" from the sale of Jerusalem stone to the campaign, said Joshua Levinson, the president of the company’s wholesale division, adding that the company sells around 100,000 square feet of the stone each year.
"It’s a product that 10 years ago was not on the market, but now it sells pretty well," said Levinson.
He said that he has been in contact with the president of the Jerusalem-based company that supplies the stone, and that the reality of the war hit home for him when his counterpart told Levinson that his brother had been called up to serve in Israel’s army reserves.
"Any support we can provide will be greatly appreciated," said Levinson. "This is one way we can have an impact." J.B.