This is my second in a series of posts on the GA. This and others will focus on the people who came to the GA to promote various causes. You can see my previous post about the GA itself.
A number of organizations had booths at the North American Jewish Federations General Assembly this week. Many were businesses seeking new customers. These ranged from publications such as the Jerusalem Post, web sites such as the Times of Israel and venture capitol firms.
There were also, however, many non profit organizations that had booths at the GA as well. Some were well know, such as, Magen David Adom, Nefesh B’Nefesh and several universities. I took the opportunity to speak with the people who represented lesser known organizations.
Hashava was represented by their internal coordinator and public inquiries director, Maya Krishely andd their coordinator of special affairs, Dudu Even-Chen. Maya is 39 and has worked for Hashava for three years. Dudu is 30 years old.
Based in Petah Tikva, Hashava is the Holocaust Restitution Company of Israel and was established six years ago by an act of the Knesset. Hashava comes from the Hebrew word which means to return something. Its mandate is to find and restore the assets which belonged to both survivors and victims of the Holocaust and to provide aid to survivors.
The assets are not those which were confiscated or stolen in Europe. These are assets which Jews in Europe held in Israel at the time of World War II. Many European Jews bought bonds and land in Israel out of Zionist ideology and because they may have hoped to live in Israel some day.
During the war, the British seized all of these assets as “enemy owned property” even if they belonged to Jews in the German occupied countries. They did so because they did not wish the Germans to get control of these assets in British occupied Palestine. After the war and before Israel’s independence the British did not know who, if any, of the owners of these assets had survived. They therefore placed all of the assets into a general administration pool.
After Independence the Israeli government took control of the assets. But as Dudu Even-Chen explained, after sixty years, “the government wasn’t happy and felt that not enough had been done [to return the asses to the rightful heirs] so they created this organization.”
Hashava is funded by the Israeli government and has sixty full time employees. It has a team of researchers who work to find the legal heirs to those Jews who originally held the assets. They determine who is an heir in accordance with Israeli law. If the original owner of land or bonds had no surviving descendants, then a descendant of a nephew or a cousin can make a claim. If anyone feels that he might have a claim then he can contact Hashava and they will conduct a thorough investigation into it.
Its original mandate was to last until 2021, but its director decided that it should complete its task by 2017. This does not mean that if claims are not made by the end of 2017 then the legitimate heirs will lose the money. There is no time limit on making a claim. If there are no heirs then the money is used to help Holocaust survivors in Israel. But as Maya put it,” time is running out.” Many legitimate heirs may never be found and there are there are not that many of them left to be found.
For more information on Hashava: www.Hashava.info
Another organization represented at the GA was Latet. Latet, from the Hebrew work meaning “to give,” is a non profit that provides food to Israel’s impoverished. Latet was represented by its director of organizational development, Tal Berkovich, 33, from Tel Aviv. Tal, a Tel Aviv resident, has worked for Latet for four years. Before that she worked for the Jewish Agency.
Latet was established in 1997. It has 80 full time employees and is based in Tel Aviv. It does not distribute the food, but works with 150 different food banks across Israel. The people who receive food from Latet include more than 1,000 needy Holocaust survivors. Latet tries to consolidate its activities. “We want to make the most out of the resources that we have so if there are 5 [organizations] in one city we’ll tell them to work together,” explained Tal.
Latet receives the food directly from producers such as Strauss and Tnuvah. Sometimes they have products which were mislabeled in some way and so cannot be sold in stores. These companies will instead turn such items over to Latet for distribution. In addition, Latet holds food drives twice a year where they receive food donations from people across the country.
Latet does not receive government funding. It is supported by private donations from individuals and companies in Israel. It also receives funding from the Philadelphia Jewish federation.
For more on Latet: www.latet.org.il/English