January 2, 2003
Funds Combat ‘Who Is a Jew’ Wars
In 1997, stimulated by the controversy over whether non-Orthodox converts would be registered as Jews by the Israeli government -- the latest battle in the "who is a Jew?" wars -- The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles began making funds available to what it calls "pluralism" projects. The projects are programs and activities aimed at stimulating religious pluralism and supporting "alternative" forms of Judaism in Israel, as well as increasing Jewish knowledge among Israel's secular population.
In all, 15 pluralism projects are currently under way, funded directly from Los Angeles (not through the Jewish Agency) at a cost of about $425,000. While the projects are separate from the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership, some are in Tel Aviv schools, providing an overlap of services -- and possibly effects -- with the partnership.
Pluralism projects also differ from partnership activities in that The Federation provides money but does not help to run the programs. While The Federation is careful to assert that pluralism money goes to programs, not movements, the distinction may be academic, because some of the programs funded are run by denominational institutions.
A representative sampling of last year's pluralism grant recipients are: