Visions for a Jewish People’s Fund

June 1, 2002
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Sh’ma queried many people for innovative and creative ways to allocate a Jewish People’s Fund. You can add your vision, or read additional visions, at:

Such a fund should be a statement of our best national qualities – our striving for justice and our passion for knowledge. As a goy kadosh, a holy nation, we should put financial muscle behind our call to providing a just and fair world for all its inhabitants. We should ensure that all people, including people in places without a strong Jewish demographic presence, have decent shelter, medical care, food, and access to education. By dedicating part of this fund to basic humanitarian need, we are affirming life in the face of a history that sought to extinguish it. Included in this share would be a fund dedicated to paying reparation for Palestinian refugees, once peace decided to shine its rays on the Middle East.

Another portion of the money should be dedicated to providing and promoting Jewish knowledge and learning in myriad ways. Particularly, I’d support intense, pluralistic study that engages people over a long period of time, fostering small learning communities. I would also support the establishment of fellowships for artists who are Jewish – designed to deepen their Jewish knowledge as a way to encourage the vibrancy and diversity of Jewish culture – an immense contribution of our civilization to the global community.

Dinah Zeltser, a former Sh’ma Fellow, is working in affordable housing development in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, in between stints in the Peace Corps.

Any excess restitution funds should be specifically dedicated to the restoration of the vitality of the Jewish people, which was so tragically diminished by the Nazi regime. We need a great flowering of new and innovative ideas and projects, not misguided “silver bullet” solutions that go in and out of fashion. Therefore, I would set up a special foundation to dispense the funds in individual grants not to exceed $1 million each. This foundation would be entirely devoted to Jewish R&D (research and development), with a strong bias in favor of experimentation. Let a thousand flowers bloom!

Samuel P. Fried lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Endow the future of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Let us put this $1billion aside in a perpetual endowment fund to provide for the ongoing needs of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, on a permanent basis !”

One hundred million dollars is a significant amount of money to have available to spend on “innovative and creative” projects in the field of Jewish education or in an effort to strengthen the Jewish family or community on an annual basis. The funds could also be committed in full or in part to providing for the unanticipated emergency needs of the Jewish people and State of Israel. How much easier it would have been if funds to assist the victims of terror in Israel were available as needed or the resources to beef up security in Israeli schools could be transferred immediately before the next terrorist outrage occurs. Better yet, why not include the possibility of using the funds in the name of Jewish people to respond to the needs of others – peoples and nations throughout the world suffering from the scourge of hatred, war, or disasters of nature and health. What could be more a more appropriate legacy then for the Jewish people, in sacred memory of the victims of the Holocaust, to be able to act publicly, forcefully, and consistently as a recognized and dependable universal force for good.

If it were up to me I would commit two thirds of the annual investment income to innovative and creative projects in support of Jewish life in Israel and the world over. The remainder I would set aside for “disaster relief and emergencies.” If all of the latter funds are not used in a given year I would leave them in the fund to enable the corpus to grow. With time the capital basis of the Jewish People’s Endowment Fund will grow and enable us to act even more boldly and substantively. The Fund will work, in perpetuity, to ensure the future well being of the Jewish people. At the same time it will enhance the image and represent the values of Jewish life by enabling us to reach out to bring relief and to give support to Israel and all other peoples and nations in their time of need.

Rabbi Stanley Ringler lives in Israel. He is Director of the Legacy and Foundations Department of Keren Hayesod -United Israel Appeal.

Increasing the inclusiveness of the Jewish community would be a good starting place. Many congregations and schools are not accessible to people with disabilities. A grant or free loan program to make architectural modifications would be nice. Of course, funding special needs teachers/programming, and special needs awareness would be a perfect follow up to making the buildings accessible…

Jay Brill is a supplemental school teacher, disability rights advocate, & software developer for Dor L’Dor of Rockville Md.

If we take seriously the notion that our future rests with our youth and their education, then there can be no more pressing need than Jewish education. Not creating more schools or programs to attract Jewish families to them, but improving the Jewish educational institutions we already have: modernizing the physical plant and technological offerings; enhancing educational programming in and out of the classroom; improving (which in too many cases means, instituting) teacher training and professional development; and boosting teacher salaries to attract and retain top-notch educators. And, in the case of day schools, to do all this with the same passion and allocation of resources for secular studies as for Jewish studies.

Michael Kress is Editor-in-Chief of

Only a small crowd of survivors has been taken care of. The rest of them didn’t get a penny, and are still waiting and hoping. What right do the various organizations have to rob these often destitute survivors of the help they need? I am a survivor, and was denied monthly pension because my ghetto history was a few months too short. My late husband was getting such pension, and it was a great help for both of us. Since his death, in August 2001, the pension was cut short. Nothing for the widow. And you are discussing how to distribute the rest among various organizations? Why not discuss how to find out how many needy survivors remain, how to find them, and how to distribute the money among them?

Yala K.

  1. Fund “on campus” courses for a better understanding of anti-Semitism
  2. Fund Religious Community Unity Projects as Grants for Jews, Christian and Muslim programs to help in understanding Religious Intolerance.
  3. Scholarships for both Jew and non Jew education visits to Israel.
  4. Scholarships for Yeshiva Students and Aliyah of Students.

I am a terminally ill Christian Minister who has just learned that I am a Jew also, on disability, who deeply cares about healing the “schism” and prejudice in Religious Organizations.

Dov Arkansas

I am convinced the most glaring need, in the U.S. and elsewhere, is for a really effective program of Jewish education, both more rigorous education for children, and solid remedial education for adults, carried out in ways which strongly encourage, simultaneously, increased participation in the Jewish community both during and after the time of this round of education.

Every effective way possible should be employed to augment ENJOYMENT of this learning and participation, as well as a commitment to lifelong Jewish learning. Moreover, such a program would be expected to admit only those participants amenable to such blandishments. Also, traditional courses in Jewish ethics, history, religion etc., where many or even most students might very well speak highly of the course, but in fact are seen not to live more Jewishly, neither during nor after the course, nor to have any interest in doing so, are clearly NOT what I mean. I have a much more dynamic “hands-on” curriculum in mind, a program which makes the answer to the question “Why should Jews survive?” obvious to every participant, and which resembles nothing extant, so far as I am aware.

I therefor recommend that the following steps be taken to initiate and maintain such a program:

  1. Choose a select committee of educators and scholars representing the Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox communities.
  2. Charge this committee with setting up guidelines to judge proposals for both adult and children’s education in the history, values and basic mission of Judaism.
  3. Have the committee invite proposals from our best established Jewish institutions (schools, universities, seminaries) as well as from any newly formed group who wishes to compete.The committee will set a single deadline for submission of all proposals.
  4. The committee will judge the proposals and award funds accordingly.

David Bruck,University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras campus, San Juan Puerto Rico

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