Ragen, who has lived in Jerusalem since 1971, has trotted numerous issues before the public eye such as the deplorable treatment of a women by corrupt beit din (courts of Jewish law) in both Jerusalem and New York. Ragen’s columns appear in The Jerusalem Post and Ma’ariv, and her articles are available on her website and through her listserve.
A recent letter sent out to Ragen’s listserve members accuses the Jewish Agency (JA) of exploiting terror victims for monetary gain. Ragen contends that the JA established the Israel Emergency Campaign (IEC), which “raised $300 million when there was lots of blood and sexy pictures of victims.” Then, she alleges, the Jewish Agency “hid” from victims of terror who tried to collect from the fund, distributing “the ridiculous sum of only $16 million to victims.” Ragen notes that the figures are readily available online in the JA’s annual report.
Terror victims whose “pictures were used to get soft-hearted Jews to donate funds to help them” have had the door slammed in their faces when they try to collect, Ragen claims.
The Jewish Agency posted a response on its website that begins, “We were shocked to read the fabrications distributed by Naomi Ragen to her listserve with severely erroneous information about the Jewish Agency’s Fund for Victims of Terror.”
The letter goes on to acknowledge that over $300 million was raised to assist the Israelis during the last Palestinian wave of terror as part of the Israel Emergency Campaign of the United Jewish Communities, umbrella organization of the Federations of North America. This financial assistance was distributed for numerous projects, including for purchasing armored buses and ambulances, bulletproofing homes and public facilities, constructing first-aid medical facilities, and training guard and explosive-sniffing dogs.
The JA’s letter further states that far from “hiding” from victims, the organization distributed more than $19.5 million to nearly 3,000 families and “was designed to provide three years of support to help terror victims reintegrate into society.”
“Ragen’s letter is unfortunately a piece of fiction, something in which she excels,” noted Michael Jankelowitz, the JA’s liaison to the foreign press, in an e-mail to this reporter. “(The Jewish Agency does not have a campaign of its own, but receives funding through the generosity of donors to UJC, the individual federations, and Keren Hayesod so the allegations that the Jewish Agency used ‘sexy pictures’ is really a sick and cynical way of referring to the noble work of those who raise funds for (the JA’s) Fund for Victims of Terror.”
Stephen H. Hoffman, president of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, in his former capacity as CEO of UJC, was very instrumental in the establishment of the Fund for Victims of Terror, Jankelowitz notes.
“As Ragen points out, yes, the national federation system raised $300 million, but the entirety was never intended to go (solely) to victims of terror, although they were certainly a central and important part of the campaigns,” says Joel Fox, executive vice president of the Federation. “The misleading thing about (Ragen’s) rant is that American Jews are not the only ones who should be looked at for monetary assistance for terror victims. Tens of millions (of dollars) went to the victims from the equivalent of Israeli HMOs as well as world Jewry from countries around the world.”
Cleveland’s Jewish community raised $8.9 million for the IEC in three different campaigns, says Fox. A targeted share of that money went to Cleveland’s Partnership 2000 city Beit She’an and Kibbutz Merav.
“We spent $250,000 on an armored bus and hundreds of thousands on security guards, bulletproof vests, night goggles, and safe day camps for children,” says Fox. “We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished, and we maintain a very vigorous paper trail and accounting methods to track where every dollar is spent.”
Ragen is representing a group of people (victims of terror attacks) whose needs are very important to all of us, says Fox. “Because of our efforts and preventative measures, we have kept the number of victims of terror below what it would have been without our assistance.”
Copyright 2006 Cleveland Jewish News