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Cleveland Jews support Israel generously

Posted by Robert L. Smith May 06, 2008 11:51AM

Categories: FYI, News Impact
A group of kids from Beit Shean, Israel, dance and bowl with Jewish kids from Cleveland as part of an exchange program called Diller Ambassadors for Unity. They were at the Freeway Lanes in Solon April 14. Beit Shean is Cleveland's sister city in Israel.

When he turned 35 last year, Josh Goldstein took another step deeper into a homeland that has never been his home. He started a class for youths at his temple called "Why We Should Support Israel."

Monday nights, after work at the family business, he tells Jewish teenagers about how Israel made the desert bloom, its history of accepting refugees and its precarious position in a hostile world.

He also puts his money where his mouth is. As Hezbollah missiles rained down on the Jewish state in the summer of 2006, Goldstein and his wife, Tiffany, donated $1,000 to a local plea for urgent aid.

Thousands of other local Jews also wrote checks, with astonishing results. In 2007, Greater Cleveland's Jewish community gave more than $30 million to Israel, probably the most per capita among America's big-city Jewish communities.

Table: Cleveland donations to Israel
It was not the first time Cleveland's Jewish community led the way in support for the tiny, arid nation of 7 million people on the Mediterranean Sea. As Israel celebrates its 60th birthday this week, cheers and prayers will resound from Cleveland -- one of the most Israel-friendly cities on earth.

Local Jews, who number about 82,000 in Northeast Ohio, typically send about $10 million each year to Israel to build schools, aid immigrants, buy ambulances and grow crops on experimental farms. Larger Jewish communities in metro New York and Chicago send bigger dollars to Israel. But outside of Detroit, no other Jewish community gives more per person year in and year out.

And money is only one part of an extraordinary Cleveland-to-Israel connection. By the hundreds, Jewish parents send their children to Israel for camp, for bar mitzvahs and for school, often through exchanges that bring young Israelis here.

Travel to Tel Aviv is routine for Jewish Clevelanders. A 2004 federation survey found that 63 percent of local Jewish households had members who had visited Israel.

Hundreds of Clevelanders own second homes in Israel. Many make it permanent. The Cleveland Hometown Association in Israel represents more than 600 families.


Events celebrate
Israel's 60th birthday

Dozens of events are planned locally to celebrate Israel's 60th birthday this month, but the grand party takes place Wednesday May 7 -- the night before Israel's official celebration -- at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood.
• The Israeli rock, hip hop, funk fusion band Hadag Nachash is flying in to headline the Cleveland celebration of Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel Independence Day.
• Before the 9 p.m. concert, the center will host two hours of Klezmer music and Israeli dancing, food and games.
• The evening begins at 6 p.m. on a solemn note, with a Yom Hazikaron, or a Day of Remembrance ceremony in honor of those who gave their lives for the State of Israel.

Learn more about this and other Israel@60 events at www.jewishcleveland.org.

-- Robert L. Smith

While Clevelanders run businesses and Browns Backers clubs in Israel, more remarkable may be those who staff watchtowers. About a dozen local young men and women are on active duty in the Israeli Defense Forces, having enlisted as overseas volunteers.

"They're protecting more than the land of Israel," said Dr. Brian Berman, a Pepper Pike pediatrician who belongs to the local chapter of the Friends of the IDF. "There's really this feeling that they're helping to protect the whole of Jewish civilization."

That belief, that protecting Israel, serves to safeguard worldwide Jewry, helps explain widespread support for Israel in Jewish America. But why such zeal from Cleveland? Local Jews ask themselves the same question.

Before coming to Beachwood to lead the Temple-Tifereth Israel in 2001, Rabbi Richard Block ran a program in Jerusalem that assisted Ethiopian refugees. It was founded and supported with money from Greater Cleveland.

"In the nonprofit world in Israel, all the time I heard 'Cleveland, Cleveland, Cleveland,' " Block said. "After New York, I would wager Cleveland is the second best known American city in Israel."

Cleveland's renown in the Holy Land began with Block's predecessor at the Temple, the legendary Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver. A leading American Zionist, Silver famously addressed the United Nations General Assembly in 1947, beseeching world leaders to recreate the biblical homeland of the Jews. Streets, parks and schools in Israel are named in Silver's honor.

In Cleveland, Silver inspired a young Sam Miller to criss-cross the country raising money for the new nation.

"He was a great orator, and he really stated the cause plainly and plaintively," said Miller, now 86, and co-chairman of Forest City Enterprises. "They had just finished burning up 6 million Jews because no country would take them. Had there been an Israel, there would not have been a Holocaust."

If Silver enunciated the Zionist cause, arriving survivors of the World War II death camps personified it. The region's relatively large Holocaust survivor community, still 1,000 strong, spoke for murdered millions.

"Almost every [Jewish] family in Cleveland probably lost someone in the Holocaust," said Stephen Hoffman, president of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland.

The federation sponsors the annual Campaign for Jewish Needs, which last year raised $31 million to support social service and education programs. Typically one-third of the campaign proceeds go to programs in Israel. That's the highest percentage sent to Israel among America's large Jewish federations, according to United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of Jewish community federations.

Meanwhile, images of an Israel in peril spurs uncommon giving. The Hezbollah war sparked a coordinated series of fund drives in 2007, in addition to the annual campaigns. The Israel Emergency Campaign raised $20 million in Greater Cleveland, the most per capita of any American Jewish community.

"People went into bank accounts to take out money," Hoffman said.

He attributes that kind of support to the examples set by Rabbi Silver, by the survivors and by leading Cleveland Jewish families like the Millers, the Ratners and the Mandels. But he also credits a structure that allows people to help.

"The No. 1 reason people give is because they are asked, especially when it's emotional," Hoffman said. "And we are well organized to ask."

Not everyone thinks unwavering support for Israel is constructive. Sam Miller's son, Aaron David Miller, grew up to become a Middle East diplomat for the U.S. State Department. He recently told a City Club of Cleveland audience that pro-Israel passions can blind American Jews to Israel's faults, undermining the peace process.

Meanwhile, local Palestinian Americans watch in frustration as their people go without, in part, because it's not as easy to send aid to places like Ramallah and Beit Hanina.

"Obviously, both sides will support their own," said Samir Mohammad, a co-founder of the local Arab-Jewish dialogue group Ishmael & Isaac. "But it's very difficult to organize for Palestinians like Jews do for Israel."

The tap on the shoulder, the phone call for help, is usually preceded by an invitation to care. Many Cleveland Jews can cite a moment in their lives when Israel became profound.

For Robert Goldberg, the CEO of AmTrust Bank, the epiphany came upon a visit to Israel soon after the 1967 Six Day War. He was 31.

"I just realized that Israel was important to me, that it could all be gone," he said.

In 1995, Goldberg helped forge a sister-city relationship between Cleveland and Beit She'an, a struggling border town in northern Israel. In 2006, the Cleveland banker became chairman of the board of Tel Aviv University, Israel's largest university.

The organized Jewish community helped speed Alex Sukhoy, 36, into the arms of Israel. The Russian immigrant had been in Cleveland only a few years when the federation sent her on a tour of Israel with other young Jewish professionals.

"It was an amazing bonding experience," she said. "Suddenly, there's a place you feel like royalty, because everyone is Jewish."

Back in Cleveland, Sukhoy started a Jewish singles group and began donating to the federation.

Josh Goldstein's awakening began earlier in life. He was a sports-loving 15-year-old when his family visited Israel for his sister's bat mitzvah, a coming of age ceremony for Jewish girls. He knew only that Jews did not seem to hit home runs or play in the NBA.

"You walk through Israel, and they don't look like Abner Goldstein," he said. "They walk around with their chests out, wearing yarmulkes."

Goldstein complements his $2,500 annual donation to the federation with deeper investments. In 2003, as Israel endured an especially deadly wave of terrorist attacks, he joined a Cleveland group that toured Israel to show solidarity.

His presence puzzled and heartened ordinary Israelis, many of whom thanked him for coming.

"I said, 'I'm thanking you. You guys are on the front line,' " Goldstein recalled. "My contribution, it's nothing."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
rsmith@plaind.com, 216-999-4024

COMMENTS (23)Post a comment
Posted by slayerit on 05/06/08 at 12:53PM

Israel is as important to the Jewish community as it should be to the general population. Peace loving, democratic and free are what make up this state as a lone beacon of sanity in the middle east.

Our security is linked with Israel which is what bothers Islamo-terrorists so much. Together we are stronger - in peace as well as defenders of peace.

Posted by censorshipxx on 05/06/08 at 12:56PM

Maybe next time they visit they should only buy a one-way ticket...
Seems to me that if you now call America your home, maybe your effort should be to make this home a better place to live through your donations. But, hey, that's just silly me, a fourth generation immigrant whose ancestors worked hard, learned english, and made this America a better place to live.
If you like Israel so much better, go live there......

Posted by PoPo5Oh on 05/06/08 at 1:35PM

Sorry if this hurts someones feelings but for crying out loud, you're Americans, how about putting 30 million dollars to the country you live in!!!!!!!!!

Posted by omoney on 05/06/08 at 1:47PM

Israel is under constant attack. They can use the 30 million dollars, considering we have already spent about 100 billion "rebuilding" Iraq, I'd rather Israel have it.

Also, I don't see why people are so upset. Don't we have a black community in Cleveland, who gives money to fund black programs and scholarships? Don't we have a Little Italy, Slavic Village, a China Town, etc. We can still all be American's and look out for our own people.

Posted by PoPo5Oh on 05/06/08 at 2:05PM

Thats half the problem omoney. As much as everyone comes here to gripe about not being treated equally they do their damnest to remain seperated when its suits their own purpose such as all the communities you name keeping scholarships and programs to benefit their " own kind " yet they complain about lack of equality. If you want want you crave for then act it and live it.
I understand what you say about the money wasted in Iraq but quite frankly until we can look after and care for our own we have no business sending anything out of our own country. We can't even properly care for our own elderly that are no longer capable of providing for themselves and have worked a liftetime to get to where they are now to have nothing.
Its sad and pathetic.

Posted by slayerit on 05/06/08 at 2:32PM

I dislike the word anti-Semite, so I'll just refer to the negative, short sighted posts as stone ignorant ones. Please, at least do a little research before you rant and rave displaying your lack of knowledge. You may end up learning something that you would least expect, Oi, Vai!

Posted by omoney on 05/06/08 at 2:33PM

Again...not really.

I'm not sure you understand how money works, Po-Po. How much of your salary do you donate to funding greater cleveland programs or give to the the city of Cleveland. I would venture nothing. You pay your taxes like a good citizen. The Jews in the city are paying the same taxes you are, which means they give the same amount to Cleveland as you do.

They go above and beyond by then giving or donating money to Israel, rather than buying a more expensive car, or bigger house. The country of Israel and it's existence is important to them, I don't know how you can fault that.

Do you get upset at people who give money to Coats for Kids, or Cancer Patients, or for curing Aids, or for Tsunami and Cyclone relief? Everybody has a right to choose thier charity.

Posted by censorshipxx on 05/06/08 at 2:55PM

I knew it!!! Part of the reason I expressed my view on this subject was to see if someone would pull the "anti-Semite" card out of the deck!! Damn, it didn't take long!!
Funny, nothing I said in any way expressed my belief or non belief in any particular religion. My belief is only stating that I think once you pick a nation to live in, you should support that nation! The same thing could have been said about Germans, Italians, Russians, Scandinavians, etc, etc....But, bring up the exact same subject about Israel, and suddenly you're an anti-Semite!!!!! That always amazes me!!
It takes zero knowledge to believe that people who choose American as their home should be willing to support America, financially, and physically, if necessary. Believing that certainly does not make me an anti-Semite!! That's a card that's just played way too often when the country of Israel comes up. Notice I didn't say anything about the religion of Judaism? I have all the knowledge I need. The knowledge that I, and all my ancestors support America!!!!

Posted by stronzaccio on 05/06/08 at 3:17PM

Jews are loyal Americans. Period. They support Israel because it is under constant attack from its hateful barbarous neighbors. If you look at philanthropic giving to American charities, you'll find that Jews are consistently among the highest level of givers.

After Great Britain, Israel is our best and most loyal ally. A strong Israel is good for America.

Posted by ddtoast on 05/06/08 at 3:18PM

Jewish people claiming antisemitism is equivalent of George Forbes claiming racial politics when his hand gets caught in the till.

The funniest comments above is Slayerit. "Peace loving." Is that we call a nation who occupies another nation, steals their land, and keeps them in poverty?

"Do your research?" I have, and the research shows moral Jews should be ashamed of their country.

Posted by Gottseidank on 05/06/08 at 5:29PM

Religious fundamentalists and fanatics have a right to support the theocracy of their choice, whether it is a Jewish, Muslim or Christian theocracy.
The problem is taxpayer support for such theocracies, especially repressive and racist ones. When we, the US taxpayer, send a Jewish theocracy some $4 billion annually, and have been doing so for almost 60 years, then it not only clearly violates separation of synagogue and state but it is a blatant misuse of public funds. What other foreign state gets a US subsidy of over $1,000 per captia? What have we, the people, gotten back from such a colossal investment of US funds in Israel? Try to be honest. Divestment made a huge difference in apartheid South Africa. It can and will do the same in apartheid Israel.

Posted by realtorking on 05/07/08 at 7:17AM

supporting israel is why we are here today and why America is so great, the word of God tells us that the jewish people are Gods chosen people, our Messiah came from them and they are a peace loving people that just want to exist...our greatness as a country comes directly from God and if we fail to support israel our greatness will be gone and we will hurt because of it!

Posted by DASAGENT on 05/07/08 at 8:03AM

Dual loyalties is what cast this nation into a war. tHE Jewish group PNAC wrote an open letter to Bill Clinton in Jan of 1998, that advocated attacking Iraq and removing Saddam from Power. Of course they used the pretext of WMD as their rationalization. Don't let me tell you this, here, read it for yourselves.

http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqclintonletter.htm

Now what Clinton did is that he summarily kicked the PNAC out on their collective azzes. The sad part is that some of the crafters of this document eventually found a way to infest the Bush administration with their presence. Crafters such as:

Elliot Abrams
Richard Armitage
John Bolton
Zalmay Khalilzad
Richard Perle
Donald Rumsfeld
Paul Wolfowitz
James Wollsey
Robert Zoelick

So before you start up with your typical "anti-semite" BS, keep in mind that what I posted is from the PNAC's own website. So let me get this right. There are some of you out there who thinks it's okay if America is used as a proxy to fight an Israeli war? Me personally, I'll never forgive these neoconservative basturds that thrust this country into a 100 year war.

Posted by ClveBoss on 05/07/08 at 12:42PM

I hope you all do not think this is acceptable. This is perpostorous! These people are supposed to be AMERICANS yet they are always giving to Israel.

If these were Arabs, Greeks, or Italians, Jews would be the first people to stand and object to any AMERICANS giving money to foreign countries. Yet it seems there is a double standard given to jews to "protect" Israel. Every war that the US gets involved in, in the middle east, will never be to protect us Americans. Instead it will be to "protect" Israel. They should use their own money to fight their own wars.

Could you imagine what the comments would be here if this was "Cleveland Palestinian give millions to Palestine to protect themselves," there would be outrage by the very same people who applaud this article.

The United

Posted by Clveboss on 05/07/08 at 12:54PM

I hope you all do not support this nonsense. If this was arab, greeks, or italians, the very same jews and all the people who applaud this article would be outraged.

Imagine Cleveland Palestinians gathering millions of dollars and sending it to Palestine to help with their suffering from the hand of Israel. The very same people who are participating in sending to Israel would be outraged that AMERICANS would do such a thing.

We will never rest in this country because we will be in an endless war in the middle east wasting our time, money, and most importantly our lives. All the while Israel sits back and watches as this country self-destructs in the name of Israel. We're fighting their war, have you ever wondered how many of their soldiers are fighting it.

Sorry guys you can't have it both ways. Time to pick a side, you're either American or Israeli. Can't be both.

Posted by Clveboss on 05/07/08 at 12:56PM

I hope you all do not support this nonsense. If this was arab, greeks, or italians, the very same jews and all the people who applaud this article would be outraged.

Imagine Cleveland Palestinians gathering millions of dollars and sending it to Palestine to help with their suffering from the hand of Israel. The very same people who are participating in sending to Israel would be outraged that AMERICANS would do such a thing.

We will never rest in this country because we will be in an endless war in the middle east wasting our time, money, and most importantly our lives. All the while Israel sits back and watches as this country self-destructs in the name of Israel. We're fighting their war, have you ever wondered how many of their soldiers are fighting it.

Sorry guys you can't have it both ways. Time to pick a side, you're either American or Israeli. Can't be both.

Posted by jdcw on 05/07/08 at 1:10PM

REaltorking - what you said is what I was always raised to believe. We cannot let anyone attack Israel we have to be an ally to them and we have to defend them against their enemies. Jesus himself was a Jew so we must always be on the side of Israel.

Posted by jdcw on 05/07/08 at 1:13PM

What I have a problem with is the money bush said we would send over to the tusami victims - I think that is what it was. Just this past week where 20K people are dead. I feel for them and it is very unfortunate, but why in the world should we send OUR money over there when we are being raped every day at the gas pumps & our groceries?????

It is really about time we start taking care of our own. How many of our Cleveland children are hungry right now. How many fathers just lost their jobs and have no idea how they are going to take care of their families. Lets start working for America. Lets stop buying and importing all of this foreign sh*t and go back to where America started and start to be a productive country again!

Posted by DASAGENT on 05/07/08 at 1:22PM

But you'll sacrifice not only money, but blood too for a foreign country called Israel. We should start taking care of our own. But Israel ain't "my own" Maybe yours, but not mine.

Posted by EddyFelson30 on 05/07/08 at 6:26PM

Gottsiedank,

You are a totally uneducated moron. Go back to Tri-C and earn a degree, if you can get your 89 Subaru with Free Tibet bumper stickers working again. Israel is the only true democracy in the middle east. Israeli citizen Arabs and Muslims get to vote, and several are members of the Knesset (that's Israeli parliament, son). Israel has had to endure countless acts of aggression from their barbarian neighbors in Syria, Lebanon (Hezbollah), Iraq, Iran, and Egypt. The Palestinians aren't even a real nationality - they are the descendents of trouble-makers who got ran out of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. This is why these countries won't take them back, but the terrorist government of Syria and Iran, and the beduin mysoginists of the house of Saud, use the Palestinian situation as an excuse for their own failures as leaders. The Palestinians are pretty much solely responsible for what happens to them - it is a culture where terrorism/suicide bombings/death/destruction are mainstream, positive values. Look at their corrupt, terrorist rat hero Yasser Arafat, one of the world's biggest criminals; and the Hamas barbarians they elected to represent them. Israelis are generally peace loving people, but have been threatened with destruction and genocide before, where it actually happened on many occasions, so established the state of Israel with the "never again" mentality. These barbarian Palestinians don't want peace, they want Israel wiped off the map. Supporting Israel, the only beacon of the light in that rat's nest region of the world, and a key strategic ally, is a key foreign policy imperative of this country. If you don't like that, go live amongst the terrorists you love so well.

Posted by int9999 on 05/08/08 at 6:25AM

Israel is a beacon to all the other moronic Arabic sects.

Just look at the middle east countries and see grown men and women walking around in bed sheets. This is the 21st century. The women, all wrapped up like their going to a Halloween party, and the buys with dish towels on their heads look ridiculous. The so called sheiks are another joke. Too many millineum of stupid ruling have made the middle east a stinking pot that it is. Israel at the least is a shining beacon of democracy and intelligent unity, unlike the others.

As for the Palestenians, they are a pathetic joke. Used and abused by their so called leaders for centuries I still can see just how dumb they have been to allow themselves into such a living situation even prior to the arrival of the majority of Jews to Israel.

What's really sad, is both Jews and Arabs have made important and significant contributions to mankind over the centuries. Only we contemporaries fail to respect our intellectual and cultural heritages. At least the Jews have grown up and are 21st century residents living in the spirit of democracy.

The Arabs in general still want to step back into the middle ages. Now that's one thing I can give them credit for. Eye for eye. Maybe if we had some of their understanding of human abuse and stupidity, our streets wouldn't be running with all the criminal activity we now have.

Posted by ddtoast on 05/08/08 at 11:19AM

EddyFelson and int9999, glad to see you propagandists still drinking the Zionist Koolaid. Frankly Tri C seems too intelligent for you both.

Hmm, let's see, Jews leave Europe and go to Palestine in the early 1900's and dispossess Palestinian land. They then are the first modern day terrorists in the Middle East. They then massacre 500 Palestinisn villages, and then occupy land that is not their own, not to mention practicing apartheid.They even follow-up with massacres in Lebanon.

Ironic, Jews are calling the Arabs terrorists, isn't it?

Since WWII, when the whole world sympathized and empathized with them, the Jews lost all moral credibility. I for, one, resent paying $1,000 of my hard earned money each year to support your garbage.

Idiots like yourselves cannot change that fact despite all the intimidation tactics you might use in a chat session.


Posted by Clveboss on 05/08/08 at 6:21PM

int9999: You are whats wrong with this country. You want people over there to respect our American Culture yet you show no respect for the cultures of other countries. If you ever decide to educate yourself you would realize most countries are not like the United States. Most people from these countries have a CULTURE, something that is very few and far between in this country.

I realize when I read comments like yours why those countries who are still in the middle ages are so far ahead of us in education, especially in science and research. This country is falling back dramatically and we can thank you idiots for it.

Look at things objectively and you will see the truth.