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Jewish Federation dollars support humanitarian work in Israel and Eastern Europe

Barb Kovacs (left), Women’s Philanthropy Campaign co-chair, visited one of the Orr Shalom emergency foster homes in Kansas City’s partner community in Ramle, Israel. The foster homes, which provide emergency care for babies ages 0-3 years, are one of the safety net services supported by Jewish Federation elective Israel & Overseas funding.

While most of members of the Jewish community are familiar with the annual request to give to Jewish Federation, what is lesser known is how those dollars go to help sustain and enhance Jewish life at home and around the world. 

In a nutshell, Jewish Federation supports more than 80 local and overseas programs and services that fall into five areas of service: Youth and Family, Senior Adults, Safety Net, Jewish Identity and Education, and Israel and Overseas. The local programs are more visible, as members of the community either enjoy these programs as a participant (PJ Library, BBYO, The J’s Heritage Center), or as a volunteer (JFS’ Food Pantry and JET Express senior transportation). 

A little further from home are the overseas programs also supported by Jewish Federation’s annual Community Campaign. Recently, the Israel & Overseas committee, chaired by Jerry Enslein, determined how Jewish Federation’s elective overseas dollars will be used to help those primarily in Ramle/Gezer, the Jewish community’s partner region in Israel, and in partner communities in Romania and Bulgaria. In total, 32 percent of Jewish Federation’s Community Campaign is used to support Israel and overseas programs and initiatives. 

Overseas programs supported by Jewish Federation fall into four sub-categories: 

• Human Services: Safety net services to provide basic needs including medication, educational support for children, and senior adult care;

• Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion: Programs and initiatives that support pluralism in Israel and promote unity across various ethnic groups in Israel 

• Jewish Education, Identity and Culture: Programs and initiatives that help revitalize Jewish identity and culture in Romania and Bulgaria, and promote alternative (Reform) Jewish practice in Israel; and

• People-to-People: Programs and services that connect Jewish Kansas City to its overseas partners, including Shiran Cohen, the current Israel emissary.

“As with our local partner agencies, the Israel & Overseas Committee takes a close look at the elective overseas programs we support to ensure we can have a significant, long-term impact on the Jewish communities in our partner regions. We are grateful to have such a thoughtful group of community members reviewing the programs,” said Dr. Helene Lotman, president and CEO of Jewish Federation.

For 2018, five new Israel and overseas programs were selected to receive grant funding, primarily focused on education and identity, and diversity and pluralism. 

“One of the new programs selected for support during the coming funding cycle is Yadid Lachinuch, which provides assistance to the school system in Ramle by incorporating senior adult volunteers into the classroom. In addition to sharing their knowledge and wisdom with the students, the volunteers provide a much-needed extra set of hands for the dedicated teachers who are tasked with the responsibility of educating and nurturing classes consisting of 40-plus students,” Enslein said.

Other programs that help create positive long-term change include Elem, also in Ramle, which matches at-risk teens with mentors and provides workforce and life-skills training to help them get their lives on the right track, Moishe House in Bulgaria to support the growing community of young Jews who wish to connect and celebrate their Judaism with their peers, and the iREP consortium, which advocates for civil marriage in Israel.

“Every donation to Jewish Federation has a significant and positive impact on our partner communities in Israel and overseas. Just as the Jewish Federation works with partner agencies locally to help our most vulnerable, many of our Israel and overseas programs are meeting the most critical, basic needs to help insure the survival and improve the quality of our fellow Jews who have endured and continue to suffer truly abject hardship by providing food, medical care and other essential needs,” Enslein said.

For a complete list of programs supported in 2018, go to jewishkansascity.org/overseasprograms.