Aish HaTorah gets matching grant campaign started



Aish HaTorah Center for Jewish Studies has embarked on a matching grants campaign that should help the educational organization retire its debt and re-introduce programming for singles and young families that had been halted due to lack of funds.

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Thanks to a generous challenge from Los Angeles businessman Richard (Dick) Horowitz, Aish HaTorah has the potential of raising $300,000 to bolster its programming at the Gloria and Rubin Feldman Aish HaTorah West Center for Jewish Studies, known as “The Firehouse,” says Aish executive director, Rabbi Elazar Grunberger.

“Since I came to St. Louis in 1985, we have made our budget each year until 2001,” Grunberger said. He called the years 2001, 2002 and 2003 “challenging for non-profits” and ones “that threw us into debt.”

The challenge grant campaign should wipe out the debt, Grunberger said. “It will also give us funds and solid footing to forge ahead with many creative, dynamic programs that we’re planning for 2006 and 2007,” he said.

Horowitz, who is North American president of Aish HaTorah USA, has always shown a personal commitment to causes he believes in, Grunberger says. “In the mid-1980s, his business boomed and it placed him on a new level to help Aish HaTorah and many other Jewish causes,” Grunberger said. “He speaks proudly of his pleasure in giving 30-50 percent of his income away to charitable causes, particularly those that directly build a strong and bright future for the Jewish people.”

The campaign specifically targets “new dollars,” Grunberger says. “This campaign is to raise a minimum of $300,000 for Aish Ha Torah and our programming at ‘the Firehouse.’ New dollars means money from new donors or increased donations from our current donors.”

In a letter to Aish donors, Horowitz praises Grunberger, his staff and supporters and notes the rabbi’s 20 years’ of “extremely successful outreach and educational programming” in announcing his “one-time matching gift opportunity.”

Horowitz will match dollar-for-dollar every pledge over and above the greater of the donor’s 2004 or 2005 gift to Aish’s general operating budget, with a minimum of $1,000. If additional funds over $100,000 come in, Horowitz will continue to match new increases at 50 percent, up to $200,000. “I am happily willing to contribute $200,000 if you and your community will raise a total of $300,000 of increased funds to support the important programs and wonderful work of Aish HaTorah St. Louis,” Horowitz writes.

After retiring the debt, Grunberger says Aish will get back to programs for singles and families in West County, which include developing a Sunday school and afternoon and evening programs. “We want to build The Firehouse into a thriving center in West County serving families of all backgrounds and affiliations,” he said.

Grunberger emphasizes that Aish outreach efforts are geared toward the unaffiliated. “There’s a vast majority of Jews in West County who are unaffiliated and our expertise has been to reach those who are not yet connected to the Jewish community or Judaism and offer them a wide variety of social Jewish programs and educational opportunities,” he said. “All that takes money and we don’t want that to be an issue because the need is so great.”

Grunberger announced that the search is on for a new rabbi to serve as program director of the Aish Firehouse, a position that has been funded by a two-year pledge of $130,000. Another donor contributed funds for Aish to purchase a house around the corner from the Firehouse for the new rabbi.

“We have plans to launch some great programs for 20-30 something and 40-something singles and young families, and we’re arranging trips for Jewish singles, the first of which is Presidents’ weekend to New York,” Grunberger said.

The annual St. Louis Jewish Speakers’ Series, sponsored by Aish, will begin on Feb. 13, featuring Aaron Feurerstein.

Pledges eligible for the matching grant must be made by March 31, 2006, and paid by Dec. 31, 2006.