January 17, 2008

1.17.2008

(JTA) The North American Jewish federation system raised $2.4 billion last year.

Its umbrella organization, the United Jewish Communities, made the announcement Thursday for the system of 155 Jewish federations and 400 non-federated Jewish communities.

The local fund-raising branches raised $900 million through their annual campaigns and $1.3 billion in new contributions to endowment funds and planned giving programs. In 2006, UJC brought in $898.1 million from the branches and $2.3 billion in endowment funds and planned giving programs.

The system now has more than $13 billion in endowment funds, which yield approximately $1 billion per year.

The UJC also collected $90 million in 2007 through the Israel Emergency Campaign, which it started in 2006 after Israel’s war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The campaign has collected more than $360 million.

The UJC raised another $52 million through supplemental giving campaigns.

"When the day is done, we all care about the bottom line," the UJC’s president and chief executive officer, Howard Rieger, said in a news release. "Well, the bottom line for UJC and the Jewish Federations of North America during 2007 is $2.4 billion. And in many respects, that is just the beginning of what we do."

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(JTA) The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum launched a search service to access the world's largest closed Holocaust archive.

Survivors and others as of Thursday may request information from the massive digital archive, which was transferred to the Washington museum in November. The archives came from the International Tracing Service, based in Bad Arolsen, Germany.

Trained staff will search the archive, and will cross-reference with the museum's own archives and material that the tracing service has yet to share with the museum. The archives relate to wartime incarceration and concentration camps; still to come is material related to forced labor and postwar documentation. All the material should be in hand by 2010, museum officials said.

The material became available after a decade-long negotiations among the 11 countries responsible for the archives. All 11 nations now have copies of the archive.

Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, launched its own search service on Wednesday.

About 800 requests have been received so far by the U.S. Holocaust museuum, mostly family inquiries.

Applicants may make requests for information on the Web at www.ushmm.org/its or by calling (866) 912-4385. The museum is planning outreach programs to communities throughout the United States. More than half of the documents relate to non-Jewish persecutions.

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(JTA) Israel tested a classified new missile system.

Israel's Defense Ministry announced Thursday that a missile had been fired from the Palmachim Air Base in the Negev Desert as part of a propulsion-system test.

There was no more information forthcoming, prompting the Israeli media to speculate that the missile was an advanced version of the Jericho-2, which is believed to be capable of carrying non-conventional warheads to distances of up to 1,000 miles.

Israel has stepped up its development of strategic defense systems amid concerns that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons within a few years.

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(JTA) Tourism to Israel is at its highest since the outbreak of Palestinian violence in 2000.

Approximately 2.3 million people visited Israel in 2007, a 25 percent increase over the previous year and the highest figure since 2000, the government's Central Bureau of Statistics announced Wednesday.

Almost a quarter of last year's tourists were from the United States. The next-biggest contingent came from France. The number of tourists from Egypt and Jordan also showed a modest rise.

Prior to the outbreak of Palestinian violence in September 2000, the millennium was the peak year for tourism to Israel, with more than 2.5 million visitors.

Israeli officials said they hope to match that figure this year, when the Jewish state marks its 60th Independence Day.

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