The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, an ecumenical fund-raising organization headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, has been funding an estimated $1 million-worth of subscriptions a year to the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, for distribution at some 1,000 clubs for the elderly around Israel. The effort is part of a broader range of collaboration with media outlets, but the relationship with Yedioth is much more significant than the other ties. Yedioth is also the only newspaper for which the organization funds subscriptions.
The IFCJ, which is based in Chicago and Jerusalem and raises its funds largely from American Christian donors in support of a range of social-service needs in Israel, has a high media profile. In addition to purchasing advertising, the group's media tie-ins include a cooperative relationship with Channel 10's "Orly and Guy" program with Guy Meroz and Orly Vilnai (who also writes for Haaretz).
The IFCJ's relationship with Yedioth has included a series of features in recent weeks about the elderly, bearing the IFCJ logo. On the day that government cuts in child allowances went into effect, some two months ago, the Hebrew daily published an article headlined "Following the cuts, the IFCJ to give millions." The features are not designated as advertisements but rather as news content, and the newspaper's Hebrew Ynet website also promotes the work of the IFCJ in its community-activism section.
The IFCJ provides support for social welfare needs in Israel in coordination with various government authorities. The organization has said it has provided more than NIS 1.5 billion over the years in support for projects and services here. According to its website, it has the seal of approval of the Better Business Bureau in the United States. In its tax filing for 2012 with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, it reported that it had received $113 million in contributions and grants.
With regard to its relationship with Yedioth, the organization said it had launched an assistance program for the elderly in Israel, which includes financial help for the purchase of food, medicine and medical equipment, as well as efforts to address loneliness and isolation of the elderly. The organization said that, as part of this effort - and in connection with a needs survey it carried out - it became apparent that the subject of isolation of elderly populations was a difficult challenge that could be addressed through properly equipped clubs for the elderly.
As a result, the organization said it embarked on a project to upgrade facilities at the clubs around the country. "As a first step, about four months ago the organization began a pilot project through which newspapers were distributed to about 1,000 clubs throughout the country."
The organization declined to provide details regarding its purchase of the Yedioth subscriptions, but said there was no connection between its contribution and any media coverage featuring the organization. Yedioth Ahronoth did not provide a response for this report.
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