Project HEART, a government initiative cataloging Jewish assets stolen during the Holocaust, may have to shut down operations in May due to the failure to earmark funds for its continued operations, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach “failed to earmark further budget for Project HEART, which will therefore be forced to fold in May,” a source familiar with the matter told the Post.
HEART, which stands for Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce, began operations following a government decision to involve itself in the issue of restitution.
HEART does not involve itself with restitution negotiations with Austria and Germany – the domain of the Conference of Material Claims Against Germany, a New York-based organization that has been providing restitution and support to Holocaust survivors and their heirs since the early 1950s. Rather, HEART compiles claims relating to assets stolen, confiscated or looted throughout the rest of Europe.
Last August, Project HEART executive director Bobby Brown told the Post that the body was facing a budget shortfall and would have to curtail some of its activities should it fail to receive further funds.
There was only a small amount of cash left from HEART’s original 2009 allocation and he had been forced to operate on what he calls a “shoestring budget” for a number of months, he said.
“We originally were given money by a decision of the [Israeli] government.
That money, a little of it, stills exists, and that is what we are living on right now,” he added.
The new budget, which according to Brown was supposed to have come from the Senior Citizens Ministry by way of the Jewish Agency, should have arrived “months ago,” he said at the time.
He adding that he believed that the government was “working on it.”
However, according to the Post’s source, the money has not been allocated and HEART faces closure as a result.
Asked in August about HEART’s budget woes, Ayal Eliezer, assistant to the director-general of the Senior Citizens Ministry, told the Post that it could take up to two weeks to provide an answer. Eliezer failed to send the Post a reply after the time was up.
The Post has learned that the government is contemplating internalizing HEART’s activities within the Senior Citizens Ministry, but that no final decision has been made.
The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.