Last year the IFCJ raised a total of $90 million, which it in turn donated to a wide range of social welfare programs for young children, needy families and the elderly both here and in the FSU.
Officials with the American arms of both the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Joint Distribution Committee told the Post last week they were concerned about possible cuts in funding from federations across North America under budget proposals being considered by the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization that channels donations to both JAFI and JDC.
Members of the UJC's finance committee met Monday in New York and agreed to shrink its budget to $30m., down from $37m., by cutting 31 full-time staff in its operations.
A final decision will be made in June.
Eckstein, who sits on the board of both JAFI and JDC, said the financial crisis was taking its toll on both organizations, and that in the current economic climate "they will have to crunch down and realize their core missions."
"The JDC is in much better shape than JAFI, not just fiscally but also in terms of brand and direction, but there is no doubt that both organizations will take a serious hit with this cut," he said. "The fellowship will try to make up for it, and we have already stepped in to provide funding for Holocaust survivors in the FSU."
Just this week, the IFCJ launched a NIS 7m. initiative aimed at supplying needy families both here and in the FSU with basic staples for Pessah. Roughly half, or some NIS 3.2m., went to humanitarian aid organization Latet to distribute 20,000 food aid packages to needy families in Israel, and a further NIS 4m. was given to various programs run by the JDC, JAFI and Chabad for distressed Jewish families and individuals in the FSU.
"These are difficult times," observed Eckstein. "Unemployment and poverty are on the rise and the need for help is growing. At the same time, Jewish communities and philanthropies have been hit hard by the decreased value of the dollar and the subsequent economic turmoil. Last year was a devastating one for Jewish organizations and foundations."