Jewish Groups Brace for Debt Ceiling Cuts

Anti-Poverty, Refugee Aid and Hunger Programs Face Chop

Facing the Chop: Jewish run programs from around the block to across the globe could be slashed if Congress doesn’t act to head off automatic so-called ‘sequester’ spending cuts.
courtesy of hias
Facing the Chop: Jewish run programs from around the block to across the globe could be slashed if Congress doesn’t act to head off automatic so-called ‘sequester’ spending cuts.

By JTA

Published January 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A pregnant Darfuri woman at a refugee camp in Chad, a Latino senior citizen living below the poverty line in the Bronx and an elderly Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union living in Boston.

They may not know it, but these individuals are all beneficiaries of programs run by Jewish organizations with public money.

And if Congress can’t reach a deal to avoid the so-called sequester by March 1, many of these programs could be severely scaled back – if not terminated.

“Both our international and national work can be impacted,” said Mark Hetfield, the interim president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which provides medical kits to mothers of newborn children in Chad, among other services. “It could cause some really serious cuts to the programs, but we have still no idea what they might be.”

HIAS is among the dozens of Jewish organizations grappling with the potential loss of federal funds from the so-called sequester, a measure adopted by the U.S. Congress last year to force itself to confront a hemorrhaging national debt and return the country to sound fiscal footing. Unless a budget compromise could be found, draconian across-the-board cutbacks of 8.5 percent were to have automatically taken effect on Jan. 1. The impact of those cuts was designed to be so devastatingly painful that Congress would in effect force its own hand.

Despite the self-imposed deadline, however, intense negotiations failed to produce the desired outcome. In late December, Congress agreed to raise new revenue by increasing taxes on affluent Americans but put off decisions on spending cuts. The lawmakers also pushed the sequester deadline back to March 1.

As the new deadline nears, some Jewish organizations are preparing for the worst, identifying non-essential services to be axed while lobbying federal officials to protect vital programs.

Hetfield says HIAS’s most vulnerable operations are in Ecuador, where the agency helps refugees who fled fighting between government and rebel forces in Colombia, and Chad, where it provides aid to fugitives from Sudan’s neighboring war-torn Darfur province.

“These are programs I think will be targeted more deeply because they are not emergency refugee maintenance programs,” Hetfield said. “But cutting a program might create an emergency.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.