Misguided Advice on Israeli Aid

By Wendy Belzberg

Published November 14, 2003, issue of November 14, 2003.
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Recently it came to my horrified attention that my Forward e-mail has been disappearing into the void of virtual reality — by the ream. Hundreds of letters were delivered into my mailbox but never came out the other side; many e-mails never made it into the mailbox in the first place. Last week the dedicated IT team at the Forward retrieved the correspondence that had piled up, much of which dated from months ago. I am a meticulous correspondent and answer all queries (not always in the most timely of fashions), even if a particular response is not published in my column. For any of you who have written to me and not received a response, I apologize. I believe the electronic wrinkles have been ironed out. I hope those of you who have written in the past will write again — and those who have always wanted to but never have will do so now. Advice to self: The problem was not one that you caused, or knew to address. Your readers will forgive you.

* * *

In a recent column I advocated sending charitable donations directly to Israel. I received several letters explaining why this may not have been the best advice. Here is an excerpt from my response:

If you want all of your money to go to people and causes in Israel, then any amount that remains in the United States is too much. And by definition some funds will remain. If you are looking for a 100% overlap between your generosity and the Jewish people, there is only one address for those checks.

The following are reader responses.

Your readers should be aware that if they wish to obtain a charitable deduction, they must make donations to U.S. charities. “Friends of…” organizations have been organized for just such purpose. Your readers should also know that there is oversight of U.S. charities — by the Internal Revenue Service and, for example, by the New York Attorney General (for N.Y. charities). This might not be the case for foreign charities.

An excellent Web site is www.guidestar.org (which contains financial information, including tax returns, for many charities). And for some interesting and unusual programs in Israel, Argentina and the former Soviet Union, I can recommend www.jdc.org, the Web site for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Nina Krauthamer

New York City

There actually are good reasons to make the contributions to the organizations titled “American Friends of.…” They usually have been certified by the IRS as charitable organizations, which means that the contribution is tax-deductible. A direct contribution to the Israeli parent organization is probably not tax-deductible. Also, the American affiliate is subject to American regulation.

Chester Katz

Silver Spring, Md.

In the same column I offered to provide a list of worthwhile charities in Israel. The Giving Wisely Web site (www.givingwisely.org.il/) lists nonprofit organizations in Israel and profiles the services they offer. My favorite charities in Israel include One Family (www.onefamilyfund.org), which provides financial, legal and emotional support to victims of terror and their families and Shalva (http://www.shalva.org), which provides support for mentally disabled children and a respite for their families. Another organization active in terror relief is Yad Sarah (www.yadsarah.org.il), which lends medical and rehabilitation equipment to those in need.

Write to “Ask Wendy” at 954 Lexington Avenue #189, New York, N.Y. 10021 or at wendy@forward.com.

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