Donation pledges from North American Jews for next year are up, but many who promised to give money this year are asking to delay handing over their checks, the leaders of North America's umbrella Jewish organization said Sunday. Jewish volunteers who met in Tel Aviv over the weekend for the International Lions of Judah conference pledged $16 million for 2009, a 13 percent increase over this year, said Howard Rieger, president of the United Jewish Communities. Similar increases in fund-raising appeals were reported by individual federations in Chicago and New York. Yet it wasn't clear how big the gap will be between pledges donors made before the current financial crisis and money that will be handed over before the end of this year, raising the specter of budget cuts in programs as Jews who have lost their jobs or watched their investment portfolios contract pull back on charitable commitments. "We're not kidding ourselves - there's an economic crisis out there," Rieger told reporters. "We obviously don't know what the funding results are going to be." Rieger said he expected about a third of the UJC budget to be allocated to programs outside the US and Canada, including in Israel, while the bulk would be spent helping needy Jews in North America.