Bonds, Federation event to focus on Christians in Middle East

This year’s combined annual event for the Birmingham Jewish Federation, Birmingham Jewish Foundation and Israel Bonds is turning things upside down.

Usually, such events are geared toward Jewish needs in Israel and around the world, with some help from Christian supporters. While that will continue to be the case this year, the event’s focus will highlight the persecution of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Boohaker, who has long been active on behalf of Lebanese Christians, will be the guest speaker. A leader in the national American Lebanese community, he will speak about the plight of Middle East Christians.

Over the last few months in particular, Islamist groups that have taken over areas of Syria and Iraq have decimated Christian communities, some almost 2,000 years old, forcing them to convert to Islam, pay a submission tax or leave.

The Federation has made emergency donations to organizations that assist Christians and other groups in the Middle East, standing up for those facing persecution by ISIS.

Israel’s role as the only country in the Middle East where Christians, Jews and Muslims can worship and live freely will also be highlighted.

Additionally, Asaf Stein will reflect on his time in Gaza as a Lone Soldier in the Israel Defense Force this summer. Stein is a Birmingham native.

The Oct. 29 event will be at Temple Emanu-El. A reception will begin at 5 p.m., the program will start at 6:15 p.m.

The joint meeting is when all three agencies present their annual awards. The Federation will present the Joanie Plous Bayer Young Leadership Award to Andy Saag. The Susan Goldberg Distinguished Volunteer Award will go to Sheryl Kimerling.

The Foundation will present the N.E. Miles Lifetime Achievement Award to Louise and Jim Abroms. The award is presented on the basis of long-standing service to the community and a commitment to the future by endowing an Annual Campaign gift in perpetuity.

Israel Bonds will honor Harold Ripps.

The event is free and open to the community. There will be an opportunity to purchase Israel Bonds, but it is not required.

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, U.S. sales so far in 2014 tallied more than $900 million, on pace with 2013’s record U.S. sales. In August, worldwide sales surpassed $37 billion since bonds were first issued in 1951.