An Israeli anti-abortion group is reaching out to Christian Zionists and pro-choice advocates in the United States in an effort to increase the state’s Jewish population. American Friends of Efrat, the U.S.-based fundraising arm of Efrat (no relation to the settlement of the same name), is an Israeli anti-abortion group with hundreds of volunteers that counsel Jewish women against abortion and provide support for the first year of the child’s life. While in the U.S. pro-life discourse focuses on morality, the American Friends of Efrat looks at abortion from a demographics perspective. Their advertisement for the Committee to Rescue Israeli Babies (C.R.I.B.) program—Friend’s of Efrat’s only project—markets what they call an “inner aliyah,” or increasing Israel’s Jewish population not by flying in new immigrants, but by pumping up the birthrate via anti-abortion counseling and subsidies.
Though Efrat only assists women in Israel, the group has garnered support from inside the beltway through its American partner. Senator Chuck Schumer, a noted pro-choice champion who has used the issue of abortion to secure his New York Senate, attended a 30th anniversary gala for Efrat. Schumer has been lauded by Planned Parenthood who called him a “hero,” with “a 100% pro-choice, pro-family planning voting record,” but in 2007 Schumer put his pro-choice position aside and joined his anti-abortion foes at the celebration. (Schumer’s office was contacted, but did not provide a comment for this story.)
Republican leaders also praised the group: “Thanks for representing in such a great way the saving of lives. It makes me very proud to have the opportunity of being here together with Efrat,” said Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC); I am delighted to tell you that what EFRAT does is important, it’s important to inspire us and it’s important to keep us all accountable,” added Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL); and “All of G-d’s children have intrinsic, inestimatable value to Him. And that is the only thing that holds the family together, [sic]” said Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ).
According to IRS 990 tax reports, the American Friends of Efrat pulls from mainstream foundations including matching donations from Deutsche Bank, The Goldman Sachs Foundation and the Prudential Foundation. But the heftiest sums come from the Jewish community. Despite the fact that 89% of American Jews support abortion rights, the Federation Foundation of Greater Philadelphia sent the group $100,000 in 2004 and 2006, while the Jewish Community Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles gave C.R.I.B. just over $5,000 in 2007 and $10,000 in 2008. In addition, the Madav IX Foundation, a charitable organization funded by Jewish family foundations but administered by the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, gave the C.R.I.B. program $10,000 in 2008. The Madav IX Foundation shares the same Ohio address of the Bennet and Donna Yanowitz Family Foundation that gave the C.R.I.B. program $2,000 in 2004 and $1,000 in 2007.
I first heard of Efrat earlier this fall while covering the largest annual event in Jerusalem: a messianic Christian festival themed after the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. “This is my fourth shofar,” a teenager girl told me while dancing to ecclesiastical music and strobe lights. Aside from kitsch Judaica for sale the lobby had stacks of the Jerusalem Post’s “Christian Edition,” a glossy insert to the English language paper. On the back cover of the December 2011 issue was a full-page advertisement with a grinning Caucasian toddler. “God blesses those who bless Israel,” continuing, “Preventing abortions is the key to Israel’s survival as a Jewish state.”—The message: the child is happy because he was not aborted. The plug: donate to American Friends of Efrat where Christian supporters of Israel can not only save a life, but stack the number of Jews in the holy land.
The ad reads:
Israel is currently fighting a demographic war for her survival. As we go to print Israel’s borders are in jeopardy. The Arab birthright is about double the Jewish birthrate. General Uzi Dayan speaking as the Director for the Council of National security announced: ‘Demographic projections forecast an Arab majority in Israel by the year 2020 less than 15 years from now.’
And a commercial on the American Friends of Efrat website explains that thwarting abortion is “the most cost effective aliyah ever:”
‘As this video is being produced Israel’s borders are in jeopardy due to the demographic the threat. Efrat is already making a demographic difference for Israel. But imagine what a difference it would make if Efrat could save 5,000 babies a year or more instead of just 2,000. This would be the most cost effective aliyah ever as there would be no need to pay for airfare or housing as the babies are already in Israel just waiting to be born.’
The C.R.I.B. program markets that saving a Jewish child is also economical. In fact the cost of saving one Jewish baby runs around $1,200, according to the organization. An $18.00 donation to Efrat covers the cost of a baby bath, while $50,000 makes one a “builder of Israel’s future,” saving 41 children.
Other American Friends of Efrat ads appear on the websites for dispensationalist Christian groups like Texans for Israel, a Texas based pro-Israel group whose website logo is a map of “Greater Israel” with a sniper target symbol imposed over the West Bank.
In part American Friends of Efrat is reaching out to Christians and public officials outside of Israel because their reputation is stained at home. In 2011 the organization was in scandal over a murder-suicide after one of their volunteers convinced a teen to delay an abortion. One of the teen’s mothers said members of Efrat visited her daughter while she was seeking medical consultation to terminate her pregnancy. According to the mother the volunteers told the youth she had four or five months before she needed to make a decision. They also advised her to not disclose their conversation or her pregnancy to her parents. But after the first trimester past, the teen and her boyfriend ended their lives together in a murder-suicide pact.
Efrat maintains the coercive anti-abortion activists were not members of their organization, but mere admirers acting independently.
On the heels of the Efrat’s teen suicide, in Tel Aviv the group filled mailboxes with pro-life flyers. “Mom, don’t kill me! Today I grew fingernails and developed other essential organs,” the brochures read. And they posted billboard in Jerusalem. “Pregnant and need help? Call Efrat,” said the poster that included the image of a secular blond woman.
Then last winter when Efrat won a prize for their dedication to the Jewish community, Israelis protested. “[T]hey are saying a woman’s ovaries are a political tool,” said Tzaphira Allison Stern to the Jerusalem Post last December at a demonstration outside of the Jerusalem Prize ceremony. “Why shouldn’t a woman have an abortion? Because we need the baby so there are more Jews, and so there are more Israeli soldiers, so we can defend the land and continue the occupation,” she continued.
And so colored by scandal at home Efrat’s fundraising and governmental lifeline arrives from abroad. All the while in Israel they are known as a right-wing, anti-choice, anti-Arab group.