Dear Friends & Board members of the Carol Chomsky Memorial Fund,
As we gear up for another academic year, another US presidential election, and the on-going news of devastation in countries such as Syria and Yemen in the wake of the “Arab Spring,” I wanted to write a letter that would both inform and update you on our progress and what we have been doing.
This past year the Carol Chomsky Memorial Fund provided the lion’s share of financial backing for the summer LEAP (Learning for the Empowerment and Advancement of the Palestinian [refugees] project in Lebanon, an all-volunteer project that places qualified American students and other interested people in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon. This summer’s program expanded to include refugee camps in south Lebanon as well as in Beirut giving Americans first hand knowledge and experience of living in the camps and of coming to understand the magnitude of the refugee problem in Lebanon and beyond. The LEAP program is going to begin an all-year volunteer program this fall that will have its staff members working together with the Lebanese-based Beit Atfal as-Sumudto continue offering English language and college preparatory classes to students in the camps. Volunteers who have participated in the LEAP program have uniformly claimed that it was a life-changing experience and one that has dramatically affected their understanding of the Palestinian issue in local, regional and global affairs.
In addition to our support for LEAP, the CCMF contributed funding or otherwise aided a wide variety of humanitarian, educational and activist organizations mostly here in the United States. These include organizations such as the Foundation for Middle East Peace, CodePink, Students for Justice for Palestine (educational projects only); Free Gaza & their efforts to organize a “flytilla” to Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Amnesty International, the Palestine Gandhi Project, KinderUSA, the Palestine Chronicle, the Rachel Corrie Foundation, the US Friends of UNRWA, the Jerusalem Fund, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Palestine Center for Human Rights or PCHR (based in Gaza), the Mezan Center for Human Rights (based in Gaza), and a host of other, similar organizations across the US and on the ground in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. We accept recommendations for making (or not making) small contributions to organizations you think are deserving of support. We would also gladly accept recommendations for assisting certain organizations in non-financial ways (through actions such as co-sponsorship, electronic publicity, leaf-letting, organizing, twittering, announcing events, forwarding information, schedules, articles, and so on).
In April, the CCMF brought the outstanding doctor & surgeon, Mads Gilbert, to the United States for a ten day long speaking tour. Dr. Gilbert spoke at multiple universities and peace groups in Washington DC; Madison, WI; Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN; Northfield, MN; New York, NY; New Brunswick, NJ; Boston, and Cambridge, MASS. During his time here, Dr. Gilbert was a guest on numerous radio news and current issues shows across the country. He was featured on The Real News Network and in a number of articles for local city and campus newspapers. Gilbert also spoke at the National Press Club in Washington DC where, as in other venues, he discussed at length his work in Gaza during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008-2009, much of which is articulately and powerfully detailed in his book, Eyes in Gaza (distributed by Interlink in the US) and co-authored with his colleague, Dr. Erik Fosse.
Dr. Gilbert’s speaking tour required a great deal of time, effort, organization and funding, almost all of which was provided by the CCMF and by board members and activists in cooperation with CCMF throughout the various cities and states where he spoke.
In May, the CCMF sponsored and co-organized a less extensive but highly informative and important speaking tour by the young, prize-winning journalist from the city of Rafah in Gaza, Mohammad Omer. Mohammad Omer addressed a meeting at the United Nations in New York; the congregation of a conservative synagogue in New York City; and an audience open to the public at the well-known coffee-shop/social justice events center, Busboys and Poets, in Washington DC. Omer, 26 years old, is a largely self-taught journalist who founded the Rafahtoday website during the second Palestinian Intifada. Mohammad Omer literally grew up in the shadow of the Intifada and therefore brings to his audiences a voice otherwise rarely heard in the West.
Before these lecture tours, the CCMF was able to make a major contribution to the US-based Friends of UNRWA’s emergency school feeding project in the Gaza Strip in December-January, 2011-2012. This “emergency” program has been on-going because of the harsh conditions of closure imposed on Gaza by Israel with full US support. It provides nutritional meals for primary and secondary school children in Gaza. For some children, this is the only nutritional meal they will get during the day.
Last fall, we became a member organization of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and are therefore eligible to participate in the conferences and activities organized by the latter. Our presence is becoming better and better known and many individuals and organizations have asked us for support or cooperation/co-sponsorship in a variety of activities. We are selective in what we contribute to, assuring donors that our priorities are humanitarian aid and educational events. We support activist educational outreach and networking as well but are selective in choosing which groups and events to fund.
The CCMF has become an indispensable part of projects such as LEAP, Al-Mezan, friends of UNRWA, and many campus-based educational activist groups (primarily SJP). There are a million ways we can make a difference, but much of this depends on our visibility, publicity, and contributions. At present, we are in need of major additional funding if we are to continue our work. For this reason, I am writing to ask that you help us become a more well-known and recognized organization; and that you consider making a donation to the organization either on-line or by mailing a check to:
The Carol Chomsky Memorial Fund, Inc.
c/o 1102 Shorewood Blvd.
Madison, WI 53705
All contributions are tax deductible. We are a legally recognized 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. Our continued existence depends upon the contributions we bring in and the publicity we draw. If you would consider highlighting information on the Carol Chomsky Memorial Fund -on Facebook, Twitter, or in any other creative ways, your support would be deeply appreciated. Please feel free to circulate this letter to your friends and associates requesting that they consider donating or publicizing our work and objectives. Our website is currently being updated to reflect the projects we have funded or undertaken. It will also record upcoming events, the first of which will be a visit to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus this October 24th-25th of Miko Peled, author of The General’s Son (son of former Israeli general Mattitiyahu Peled).
We welcome article submissions (from journals, websites, newspapers and other media) to post on-line. We intend to have a page devoted to current events in the Middle East with particular emphasis on Palestine but including articles on major news stories around Middle East issues. We therefore expect to have an updated and re-worked website that will include a page to announce our activities; pages devoted to news and news analysis,; pages that highlight our most significant projects and activities such as the LEAP program in Lebanon and the spring 2012 US speaking tour of Dr. Mads Gilbert.
I would personally like to thank you for your attention to and support of this fund; one that is devoted to increasing the awareness of Palestinian human rights issues and activities that can reach the widest possible audiences. You can find us at: www.chomskyfund.org (be aware we are under construction) and, once again, your suggestions and responses are most welcome.
I would like our work not only to continue but to expand – and, significantly, in the spirit and in memory of Carol Chomsky.