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Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), the official American organization supporting the well-being of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, announced its 2021 fundraising priorities. The announcement follows ongoing discussions with IDF Manpower Directorate senior commanders regarding the soldiers’ well-being and educational needs.

IDF soldiers are supported by FIDF and its programs at various points throughout their military service, depending on their specific needs. FIDF invests in a variety of programs that exhibit a wide impact on Israeli society, ranging from education and culture to welfare and health.

FIDF’s 2021 fundraising priorities are thus based on corresponding formal IDF requests, and focus on 1) education, 2) financial relief, and 3) well-being needs of soldiers throughout their respective IDF journeys.

FIDF’s 2021 education fundraising priorities focus on post-service Uniform to University (U2U) Scholarships, guaranteeing higher education for thousands of IDF veterans, including those in financial need, Lone Soldiers, new immigrants, minorities, and combat soldiers; Project Overcome, offering some 3,000 soldiers - at-risk youth who have been historically considered unfit for military service - a series of empowerment courses including interactive workshops and educational skill-building sessions that promote self-sufficiency and provide a life-changing opportunity to integrate successfully into IDF service and beyond; Formal Education, enabling 455 soldiers to complete their high school education and earn their diplomas; Witnesses in Uniform, funding a delegation of IDF officers to visit and learn about Holocaust sites in Poland; and Essence Delegation for 40 IDF commanders to strengthen and understand Jewish Diaspora identities.

 In addition to following the IDF’s educational needs, FIDF continues to fundraise for and provide post-service scholarships based on socio-economic needs for some 1,250 new IDF combat veterans through FIDF’s IMPACT! Scholarship Program. 

FIDF’s 2021 financial-relief efforts prioritize pre-enlistment vouchers for some 1,000 low-income soldiers to purchase basic necessities for use during their service; 10 brigades already adopted through FIDF’s Adopt a Brigade Program, as well as 6 additional brigades available for adoption; 80 IDF units adopted through Adopt a Battalion Program; Rosh Hashanah Holiday Gift Vouchers for 6,500 Lone Soldiers and 2,500 low-income soldiers; as well as food vouchers and grants for some 20,000 soldiers in-need, distributed by their commanders.

FIDF’s 2021 well-being fundraising needs range from a Combat Soldiers’ Fun Day for 4,000 soldiers serving in combat units; sponsoring 7 cycles of Bereaved Families retreats and seminars in Israel; and sponsoring Ice Cream Trucks that will delight 9,000 soldiers all across Israel.

 Along with these programs, Lone Soldiers, who join the IDF from all over the world and have no immediate family in Israel, benefit from additional services, and thus FIDF’s 2021 fundraising goals continue to concentrate on flights to visit family abroad for 1,200 Lone Soldiers; a Lone Soldiers’ Fun Day for some 4,000 Lone Soldiers; and Warm Homes (apartment rent) for some 35 combat Lone Soldiers.

FIDF is also deeply committed to the construction of a home in Rishon LeZion, Israel that will consist of individual rooms for 200 Lone Soldiers; and to its partnership with the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization, and fundraising for the FIDF-Nefesh B'Nefesh Program, which supports over 3,500 Lone Soldiers from 70 countries around the world.

For soldiers wounded in battle, and the families who have suffered the devastating loss of a loved-one in the IDF, FIDF offers care and comfort as they rebuild their futures, by helping with their healing process, strengthening mental and physical capabilities, and celebrating life-cycle events.

 Besides its diverse programming, FIDF also continues to invest in constructing, refurbishing, and maintaining buildings for the well-being of IDF soldiers, among them sports centers, culture halls, synagogues, memorial rooms, swimming pools, sports facilities, and soldiers’ homes throughout Israel.

 “We are tremendously grateful for FIDF’s ongoing commitment to the well-being of IDF soldiers. In the last 40 years since FIDF was established, the state of Israel and the IDF went through major milestones and undertaken challenging endeavors, and we have always appreciated that FIDF has been there to support us,” said Lt. Col. Keren Weiss, Head of the IDF Welfare and Donations Branch. “FIDF’s valuable partnership is a reminder that the IDF’s mission is crucial to the people of Israel, and also to people around the world.”

“Despite these difficult times, we at FIDF are committed and excited to continue supporting the brave IDF soldiers,” said FIDF National Director and CEO, Steven Weil. “The principles of social action, social well-being, equity, diversity, and inclusion are at the heart of FIDF’s programs and services, impacting all soldiers, including minorities and disadvantaged populations in Israel. By following IDF’s official requests and funding these vital programs that create life-transforming opportunities to thousands of soldiers, FIDF helps the IDF serve as the ultimate equalizer and betters the futures of Israel’s soldiers for generations to come.”​




In the culmination of a months-long legal battle between Agudath Israel of America and the governor of New York over the state’s restrictions on houses of worship, a federal District Court has now issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of all houses of worship specific limitations. 

The District Court ruling in Agudath Israel v. Cuomo cemented and expanded upon previous rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and prohibits the state from enforcing both the fixed numeric limits and the percentage of capacity limits in orange and red zones, as contained in the Governor’s Executive Order. Both such limits do not exist in similarly situated places of business.  

The Governor did not contest Agudath Israel’s motion for a permanent injunction, and has committed to formally amend the contested Executive Order before the end of the month.

Commented Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel, “We wish we wouldn’t have had to go to court. But we had no choice, as Agudath Israel vigorously opposes any action which jeopardizes individuals’ first amendment rights to freely exercise religion, or which restricts religious practices differently than other activities. Religious freedom is the bedrock and touchstone on which this nation was founded.

"At the same time, we forcefully reiterate our call for ongoing care and prudence - in all activities - in light of COVID-19.” 


Creates State Rental Assistance Program to allocate $2.6 billion in federal rental assistance dollars to assist struggling tenants and small property owners

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed legislation to extend the state’s landmark eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021, protecting millions of Californians struggling as a result of the economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the passage of SB91, California leads all states by enacting the strongest renter protections in the nation.

“Once again, California is leading the way by enacting the strongest eviction protections in the nation, which will provide relief for millions of Californians dealing with financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19,” Gov. Newsom said. “This law not only provides greatly needed support for tenants, but also provides relief to small property owners in need of assistance to pay for mortgages, thanks to $2.6 billion in federal stimulus funding.”

On Monday, Gov. Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced an agreement on the legislation to extend the eviction moratorium established last year under AB 3088, which was set to expire at the end of the month.

“Today, we took the boldest action in the nation to protect California renters and support mom and pop landlords, but we know that we have more work to do and that we need to help the folks hurting in our communities understand how to access this critically-needed help,” said Senate President pro Tempore Atkins. “This is an important step. But it’s not the last step, and we will keep working on this issue so that no one has to walk this path alone.”

The legislation signed today pauses evictions for tenants who declare under penalty of perjury an inability to pay all or part of the rent due to a COVID-related reason. Tenants are still responsible for paying unpaid amounts to property owners, but those unpaid amounts cannot be the basis for an eviction, even after the moratorium ends. 

SB 91 also establishes the State Rental Assistance Program to allocate the $2.6 billion in federal rental assistance California will receive. The program will target aid to income-qualified tenants most at-risk with unpaid back rent. Assistance will also be extended to property owners who agree to waive 20 percent of unpaid rent. By agreeing to this waiver, property owners will become eligible for 80 percent in rent reimbursements for amounts owed between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. 

"Those of us pushing to get this done knew that there were literally homes and lives at stake. I am grateful for the collaboration that helped us succeed in the face of a very tight deadline. Our work is not over- we must push to find more lasting solutions that protect Californians at risk,” said Speaker Rendon.

Approximately $150 million of the federal funds will be reserved for tenants in counties with populations of 200,000 or less and the additional funds will be available to counties with populations larger than 200,000. The state will directly administer $1.5 billion through contracted entities, and local governments can either join forces with the state or administer their own programs. The State Rental Assistance Program will begin accepting applications from property owners and tenants in March.

SB 91 prohibits the selling or assigning of rental debt that was accrued from March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 until the end of the moratorium. However, the prohibition is permanent with respect to the rental debt of people at or below 80 percent of Area Median Income who meet the eligibility requirements of the Rental Assistance Program. Property owners or other housing providers are also prohibited from using COVID-19 related debt as a negative factor for evaluating a housing application, or as the basis for refusing to rent to an otherwise qualified tenant.

The Governor signed the following bills into law today: 
    SB 89 by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) – Budget Act of 2020.
    SB 91 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – COVID-19 relief: tenancy: federal rental assistance.

Today’s legislation and AB 3088 build on the state’s strongest-in-the-nation rent cap and eviction protections passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor in 2019. Continuing efforts to address the housing availability and affordability crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor’s proposed 2021-22 State Budget provides $500 million for infill infrastructure and an additional $500 million in low-income housing tax credits to support low-income housing development. The Administration is streamlining and reorganizing state housing programs to maximize housing production, while also continuing to support affordable housing.

The Governor has signed major legislation to boost housing production, remove barriers to construction of accessory dwelling units and create an ongoing source of funding for borrower relief and legal aid to vulnerable homeowners and renters. The 2019-20 State Budget made a historic $1.75 billion investment in new housing and created major incentives for cities to approve new home construction. In the first weeks of his administration, Governor Newsom signed an executive order that created an inventory of all excess state land and the Administration has launched partnerships with California cities to develop affordable housing on that land. California has launched the “Housing is Key” campaign in vulnerable communities aimed at connecting renters and property owners with helpful information and resources.

       3-9 Adar, 5781                                                          Feb. 15-21, 2021 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--645th Web Ed.


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