Banks Waive Fees on Reparation Payments
Holocaust survivors in California will no longer have to pay up to 12 percent of their reparation payments in wire transfer fees charged by five banks.
At a news conference Oct. 8, Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) announced that after approximately eight months of negotiations, the banks agreed to waive the fee for transferring monthly payments from Germany and other European countries to individual survivors.
Payments to approximately 20,000 survivors in California average $350 a month, although some receive only $250 per month. The transfer fees ranged from $10 to $30 per payment.
"For many survivors, waiver of the fees makes the difference between living at a subsistence level, or below it," said David Lash, executive director of Bet Tzedek Legal Services. Lash, together with Holocaust services advocate Michael Freeman, worked closely with Pavley on the project.
Banks participating in the voluntary fee waiver are City National Bank, First Federal Bank of California, Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo and World Savings.
Jan Lynn Owen, Washington Mutual western regional manager of government relations, said the fee waiver will apply to her bank's branches in all 50 states. Darrell R. Brown, Wells Fargo senior vice president, said its branches in 23 Western states will adopt the new policy. Both officials said the fee waiver represents an unprecedented initiative for their banks.
Lash praised the banks as "good corporate citizens, who, especially in this day and age, should be exalted and serve as examples to other banks."
Pavley said negotiations are continuing with Bank of America and several other banks to adopt the fee waiver policy.
John Gordon, Los Angeles vice president of Child Survivors of the Holocaust, expressed his group's appreciation to Pavley, Bet Tzedek and the banks.
Similar policies have already been implemented by more than 30 financial institutions in New York, Illinois and Europe. British banks have gone a step further, repaying fees charged over the last 50 years.
Pavley's 41st Assembly District includes parts of West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Tribute to Rabbi Philip Schroit
Nearly 500 people paid tribute to the memory of Rabbi Philip Schroit at a Congregation B'nai David-Judea service on Oct. 6. Schroit, who was the founding rabbi of B'nai David-Judea and a past president of the Southern California Board of Rabbis, died on Aug. 12 at the age of 79. He was buried in Israel. Past and present synagogue leaders were joined by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Rabbi Reuven Hutler, Cantor Leopold Szneer and Schroit's son, Dr. Alan Schroit, in remembering the rabbi as a friend, leader and one dedicated to Jewish education.
During the 1950s, Schroit worked to establish kosher catering at Los Angeles hotels, and was an early supporter of the new State of Israel. He became a leader in Israel Bond appeals and in sending donations from his congregation. Working with other Orthodox and non-Orthodox rabbis, he helped build the infrastructure necessary to establish Los Angeles as a thriving Jewish community in the post-WWII era.
"He built the foundation upon which all of us stand," said Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, the current B'nai David-Judea rabbi.
Recognizing Schroit's commitment to educating Jewish children, B'nai David announced renovation plans to develop the Rabbi Philip Schroit Youth Education Center. The center will expand the Shabbat morning program for children, and accommodate growing programs for pre-bar and bat mitzvah children and teenagers.
Donations in Schroit's memory can be sent to: The Rabbi Philip Schroit Youth Education Center, 8906 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035. For more information call (310) 276-9269. -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor