Agudath Israel of America has announced the creation of a
special fund aimed at assisting families with children.
On the first of July, the one-time-per-child grant of NIS
1354 that has been provided to Israeli parents for decades
was cut to NIS 406 for each child after a couple's first. The
grant served to signal the importance of population growth
and also provided families with a modest sum to assist them
as they care for a newborn.
With the new "baby bonus" reduction, however, not only has
the baby-friendly message been curtailed but the severe
economic pressures being felt by Israeli families, who will
soon be saddled with severe reductions in their monthly per-
child allowances, has been compounded.
To help assist Jewish families suffering from the reduction,
Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, executive vice president of Agudath
Israel of America, announced the creation of the special
Agudath Israel fund, which will provide at least Israel's
more needy Jewish parents with the traditional one-time grant
for each new child despite the budget cut.
Rabbi Bloom expressed hope that the larger American Jewish
community will also see a role for itself in helping
alleviate the economic strain being felt by Israeli
"The realization of how important Jewish children are to the
Jewish future is something that needs to be faced by every
Jewish community -- including the American one," he says,
noting further that "if the preliminary reports of the
National Jewish Population Survey 2000 are any indication,
Jewish America is shrinking."
"But it is particularly important in Israel," he stresses,
"and we must all do everything we can to help Jews there
whose lives reflect that realization."
What is more, "at a time when Israel is threatened in an
overt way by those who would seek to make the Middle East
Judenrein, we must do all we can to not only help those in
need but to help ensure a vibrant Jewish future there."
Rabbi Bloom reached out to the United Jewish Communities, the
general American Jewish community's major philanthropic arm,
suggesting that it also might want to help fill the budget
In a letter to the UJC's President and Chief Executive
Officer, Stephen H. Hoffman, Rabbi Bloom noted that the
approximately $13 million the Israeli government is saving by
the curtailing of the new-child grant is "is a sizable sum,
to be sure. But we feel it is not worth the toll that it will
take on the Jewish future in Israel."
"I expect our constituents to react generously on behalf of
[Agudath Israel's] fund," he continued. "But I do not
entertain the likelihood that our efforts can provide the no-
longer-offered grants to all the Jewish parents who need
"And so I write you to invite the UJC to consider a special
grant, to help ensure that all new Jewish parents in Israel
who have need of this one-time allowance for feeding and
clothing their new Jewish arrivals receive it."