By Anshel Pfeffer

The board of directors of the Claims Conference decided last month to make a major change in how they allocate funds intended for the welfare of Holocaust survivors and the education and commemoration of the Shoah.

Until this year, their was a clear division of funding, with 80 percent going to welfare and health purposes, and the remaining 20 percent for education and commemoration. Starting this year, it was decided by the conference that the amounts dedicated to education would be frozen and the health and welfare allocations would increase significantly.

Most of the Claims Conference, officially known as The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, funding is given directly to specific survivors who receive their stipends and compensation from Germany and other sources, such as the Swiss banks arrangements, via the conference.

In addition the conference allocates some $90 million a year to organizations for improving the social welfare of survivors. These are considered unrestricted funds and the conference can allocate them as it sees fit. Most of the money for these organizations has come in recently from sales of formerly Jewish property, primarily in the former East Germany.

In 2005, $44.5 million was given within Israel by the conference, most of which went to build and renovate geriatric wards in various Israeli hospitals.

Out of the 20 percent earmarked for education, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial [received] $1.5 million, 5 percent of its operating budget. In the past Yad Vashem has received large sums from the Claims Conference to finance the building of the new museum that opened a year and a half ago.

There has been a lot of criticism in recent years that not enough of the money has been going to the actual survivors and too much went to education and… memorials.

Reuven Merhav, chairman of the Executive Committee, said that they had not changed the manner of allocation, but only added an ad-hoc budget due to special needs, just as they added NIS 13 million last year during the Second Lebanon War to help survivors in the North.