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Israel Channels Millions In Aid To Zionist-Oriented U.S. Orthodox Schools

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
July-August 1999

The Israeli Government is channeling millions of dollars into Zionist-oriented Orthodox schools in the U.S., prompting what The Forward (July 9, 1999) called "outrage among some American donors to Israel."  

The disclosure of the millions of dollars that the Israeli Government has been sending exclusively to Orthodox Jewish educational institutions in the U.S. is, The Forward notes, "inflaming the feud between Israeli government officials and leaders of the Reform and Conservative religious movements. It is also putting a new twist on the financial relationship between Israel and America. America is traditionally the donor, and Israel is the recipient in that relationship. It turns out, however, that as American taxpayers deliver billions of dollars in aid to Israel, and as American Jewish philanthropists send hundreds of millions, the Israelis have been quietly sending some money back to America — but only to certain institutions . . ."  

The new director of the Jewish Agency said that the agency will ensure that institutions will only receive money if they incorporate Zionism into their curriculum. Aaron Abramovich declared that, "I think it is the Israeli Government getting involved in Jewish Zionist education in different countries of the world."  

The contract between the Israeli Education Ministry and the Jewish Agency, a copy of which The Forward obtained, stipulates that future funding will go only to schools that dedicate at least 10 hours a week to Jewish-Zionist education. This is defined as education recognizing "the importance and centrality of the Land of Israel and of the state of Israel and the national and spiritual characteristics of the Jewish people" and embracing "a commitment to the unity of the Jewish people and to nurturing Jewish solidarity." In order to receive funding, schools must also recognize the state of Israel and actively participate in both Jewish holidays and "national commemorative days marked in the state of Israel."  

Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi has called upon the new Israeli Government to focus on Jewish education in the Diaspora. Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron declared "The danger of survival is no longer in the state of Israel, but in the Jewish communities in the Diaspora. The state of Israel needs to accept the responsibility for helping Jewish communities around the world."  

The president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, questioned the appropriateness of the Israeli government’s allocation to American schools and the Jewish Agency’s new role in distributing funds. Rabbi Yoffie called the aid to Orthodox and Zionist-oriented American schools "problematic" and stated: "I have some serious questions as to the appropriateness of these kinds of allocations. We need to look at that. The notion that a Manhattan yeshiva is going to have a Zionist curriculum is very, very questionable."  

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