The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has pledged $7.1 million in social support to supplement three Russian school systems as a temporary lifeline. Or Avner, Shma Yisrael and ORT have been facing dramatic budget cuts over the last months forcing cutbacks in their educational and organizational activities. The IFCJ funds will go toward social support, such as school lunches and student bussing.
The fellowship has also pledged $1 million to help support Heftsiba, the Israel Ministry of Education arm in the FSU, which funds additional teaching hours, Hebrew classes and identity studies in existing Jewish schools. Heftsiba's very existence was endangered when the Jewish Agency for Israel cut its funding as part of a $45 million dollar general budget cutback.
The fellowship pledge is a one-time grant that only accounts for a fraction of the school systems' funding, aiming to enable the school systems to continue operating until the end of the academic year.
Over the course of the past year, schools across the former Soviet Union had been forced to cut back on exactly the type of services that the grant can cover – bussing, free lunches and other operating costs.
The IFJC has pledged another $3 million for JDC programs to help make up budgetary shortfalls in welfare services for children and orphans.