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Jewish Fund Drawson a Sense of Duty

February 07, 1985|MATHIS CHAZANOV, Times Staff Writer

Stan Hirsh was on the telephone. Stan Hirsh is generally on the telephone, and when he is not, he is at a meeting. Hirsh, campaign chairman of the United Jewish Fund, was talking to a young Santa Monica stockbroker who was about to become poorer by $7,000.

Jewish charities, Hirsh told him, feed thousands of people every day, pay some of the tuition for about half the children in Los Angeles Hebrew schools, help support Jewish communities in Romania and other East Bloc countries, and help immigrants get to and settle in Israel.

"We should meet one of these days," Hirsh told the stockbroker, "but you don't have to wait till then to make your pledge."

The result--$4,500 for the United Jewish Fund, and another $2,500 for Operation Moses, a special campaign to bring thousands of Ethiopian Jews from refugee camps in Sudan to Israel.

Hirsh, 58, for 30 years a garment manufacturer and now an investor, acknowledged with a laugh that his own donation was bigger. "I'm the biggest giver in the city," he told the stockbroker. "My gift--I wish you had the ability to give it."

In his second year as chairman of the fund, the gum-chewing chain-smoker heads a campaign that in 1984 raised $41.5 million from the Jewish community of 510,000--about 223,000 of whom live on the Westside--compared to $72.7 million gathered by United Way in the city at large.

Hirsh estimates that the Los Angeles community donates more than $100 million a year to various Jewish causes.

"There's a principle called tzedakah, " said Al Kassin, assistant director of fund-raising for the Jewish Federation Council, using the Hebrew word for charity, which is a variant of the word tzedek, meaning justice or righteousness.

"People don't give because it's a nice thing to do," he said, "but because it's expected of them as Jews."

At last weekend's "Super Sunday" at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, 3,500 telephone volunteers raised a total of $3.45 million in pledges to kick off the 1985 campaign.

A red-and-yellow placard explained that 43.2% of the money raised is used in Los Angeles, 2.3% goes to other Jewish charities nationwide and 54.5% is used in Israel and elsewhere overseas.

So instructed, the volunteers called nearly 30,000 numbers, found about 20,000 people at home and secured 11,282 pledges, according to Steve Mullen, a staff member at the Jewish Federation Council.

For many Jews, Hirsh said, charitable giving is their only real connection with the community. There are more donors to the United Jewish Fund than there are synagogue members, he added.

Despite such efforts, only about a third of the Jewish population actually gives money to the United Jewish Fund,

According to figures for the 1983 campaign, the last for which results are available, about half of the $40 million raised came from just 813 gifts, all of them of $10,000 and over. By contrast, there were 22,490 gifts in the $10-$99 category.

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