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Israel President Reuven Rivlin, speaking last month at a Yitzhak Rabin memorial ceremony, wants Israelis to see the American Jewish community firsthand. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Israel President Reuven Rivlin, speaking last month at a Yitzhak Rabin memorial ceremony, wants Israelis to see the American Jewish community firsthand. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Rivlin Calls For ‘Reverse Birthright’

Rivlin made his remarks recently at the opening of the General Assembly, the annual conference of the Jewish Federations of North America, in Tel Aviv, which took place at the end of October.

Titled “We Need to Talk,” the three-day conference focused on the divisions between Israeli and diaspora Jews. More than 3,000 participants were on hand for the event.

The Jewish Federations of North America is the umbrella body for nearly 150 Jewish federations, which act as central fundraising bodies for Jewish causes and institutions in metropolitan areas throughout the United States and Canada.

Several controversial events in recent years have created rifts between the views of U.S. Jewish organizations and Israeli government policies. The groups have objected to, among other things, the government’s freezing of a plan meant to expand a non-Orthodox prayer area at the Western Wall; the passage of a law this year officially defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jews; a proposed reform of Israel’s conversion policy that would have given more power to Israel’s charedi Orthodox Chief Rabbinate; and a 2017 law barring entry to supporters of the movement to boycott Israel.

Speaking at the conference’s opening session, Rivlin said that while diaspora and Israeli Jews have differences, they need to prioritize maintaining their relationship. He said that Israelis need to take it upon themselves to learn more about diaspora Jews, in part through a “reverse Taglit,” Hebrew for Birthright, the free, 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish young adults.

“We need to create wider circles of answers here in Israel,” he said. “For many young Israeli Jews, being a Jew means being Israeli. We must increase their exposure to your schools, camps and communities. They need to realize and to feel that they have a family, a family that [they] must take into account.”

At an event at Rivlin’s official residence in Jerusalem preceding the General Assembly, the head of New York’s UJA-Federation said some young American Jews did not see their values reflected in Israel’s policies.

Eric Goldstein, the federation’s CEO, said “The Jewish identity of many young American Jews is reflected through the lens of tikkun olam, social justice values, and they experience a mental discomfort when they use that lens to look at many current Israeli government policies: settlement policy, nation-state law, treatment of asylum seekers, marriage equality and marriage rights — more broadly, the monopoly that the Orthodox has over religion and state in Israel.”

Ben Sales/JTA/Tel Aviv

$10 Million Heart Center

Dedicated At Hadassah Hospital

A $10 million cutting-edge heart center was dedicated last month at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem.

The center, which occupies the third floor of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower at Ein Kerem, uses sophisticated cardiac technology and more than doubles the department’s capacity to treat heart patients. The unit includes 11 intensive care private rooms and a like number of post-catherization beds, as well as another 32 beds in the cardiac ward.

The Irma and Paul Milstein Heart Center was unveiled last week, according to an announcement by Ellen Hershkin, national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.

Howard Milstein, a New York entrepreneur and real estate developer, made the dedication in honor of his parents. He and his wife, Abby Sniderman Milstein, earmarked their donation for the center.

JTA

Brazilian Jewish Day School Nets $1.1M In Scholarship Blitz

Brazil’s largest Jewish day school has raised $1.1 million in donations in a recent 34-hour campaign blitz to fund scholarships.

Liessin exceeded its initial target by 65 percent with contributions from 1,087 donors on two days last month. A growing number of the school’s 1,300 students have their $1,000 monthly school fee wholly or partially funded by scholarships.

“We thank everyone from inside and outside Liessin, including those kids who gathered their allowances and came to donate,” Liessin’s president, Ronaldo Redenschi, said on social media after announcing the tally results. “Everyone who participated has learned that all Jews are responsible for each other.”

Founded in 1945, the school offers classes from kindergarten to high school on three campuses. It is headquartered in Botafogo, Rio’s middle-class neighborhood, which houses several Jewish cultural centers, youth movements and synagogues, including the city’s largest.

“We need strengthened Jewish schools in order to fight against anti-Semitism and educate more and more children and youths,” said Ary Bergher, president of the Rio Jewish federation and a Liessin alumnus.

Supporters from other countries could donate in dollars or even shekels. According to the rules, if the initial target of $665,000 was not achieved, donations would be returned to givers.

Although most Brazilian Jews belong to the upper-middle-class, the country’s longtime economic crisis has squeezed family budgets. Jewish day schools may cost nearly twice as much than other non-Jewish private schools, so scholarships have been more and more sought after increasingly.

In May, Rio’s only Orthodox Jewish day school, TTH-Barilan, raised some $750,000 in a similar campaign, or 40 percent above the initial target. Last year, all 15 Jewish schools in Sao Paulo gathered $3.6 million in two days with the same goal.

Brazil is home to a 120,000-strong Jewish community, half living in Sao Paulo. In 2017, a record 700 Brazilian Jews moved to Israel, according to The Jewish Agency, most of them seeking a better quality of life, fleeing urban violence and impoverishment.

Marcus M. Gilban/Rio de Janeiro/JTA

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