Jewish Philanthropist May ‘Suspend’ Aid To Israel Over Diaspora Controversies
A leading philanthropist for Israeli and American Jewish causes announced early Sunday that he will no longer fund Israeli projects in protest of the country’s recent decisions regarding the Western Wall and the status of non-Orthodox conversions. He then clarified later that day that he was only considering “suspending” his philanthropy.
Florida real estate magnate Isaac “Ike” Fisher, an AIPAC board member and the fundraising chair for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, announced his original decision in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on Sunday.
In the past week, the government suspended plans to build an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall, and froze for six months a proposal to pass a law denying citizenship to non-Israelis who convert to Judaism outside the auspices of the state rabbinate, which is controlled by ultra-Orthodox rabbis.
“It isn’t a matter of Reform or Conservative,” Fisher told the paper. “This is a serious act of contempt for the rabbis and leaders of our communities. They say ‘you don’t matter. They say to our women ‘your Judaism isn’t Judaism.’ It is intolerable and we have an obligation to put an end to it.”
Fisher bought over $1 million in Israel Bonds last week. He also funds scholarships at Tel Aviv University and social programs in towns on Israel’s periphery, including a soccer team for Ethiopian-Israeli children outside Haifa. Yedioth Ahronoth quoted him as saying that he will cease funding all of those activities, but Fisher later told the Times of Israel that he has no plans for such actions. ““I want to say to Israel Bonds, understand who your constituency is,” said Fisher. “To tell them, ‘Wake up everybody. You need to support us, because you need our support,’” he said.
Yedioth Ahronoth also reported that Fisher pledged to stop his AIPAC advocacy; the Times of Israel interview did not address this decision.
Leaders of the Israel lobby organization flew to Israel last week to warn Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Western Wall decision had led to a “crisis of faith” among members, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
_Update note: On Monday, July 3, this piece was updated to reflect Fisher’s clarification late Sunday that he is merely considering suspending donations to Israeli causes, not definitively ending them altogether.