The conference's "8th Night of Chanukah" campaign is tied to its Limudiah program, which supports enrichment classes for Jews of Ethiopian descent in eight cities in Israel.
Each gift of $36 can pay for a year's worth of books for two children, according to Orlee Guttman, director of operations at NACOEJ.
She added that the gifts can be made in honor of an American child; the aim is for certificates to be presented on the last night of Chanukah.
Ethiopian students, who frequently come from the lower end of Israel's socioeconomical strata, have struggled in the Israeli school system; 35 percent are now reading at grade level, according to Guttman. But a much higher percentage of students involved in its Limudiah program — which includes 10 to 12 hours of additional instruction each week — read at grade level.
Last year, the Chanukah program raised $22,000. This year, the goal is $25,000.
"So far, because of the economy, we're at about half that, which is a little worrisome," said Guttman, who added that due to funding shortages, they have to stop accepting new students into the program.
To learn more, go to: www. nacoej.org.
Malaria Affects Millions
The Union for Reform Judaism is also linking a cause to the holiday. URJ is participating in the Nothing but Nets campaign, a global, grass-roots effort to prevent the further spread of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to URJ officials, 500 million people a year are infected with malaria, and the disease claims more than a million lives annually.
"It's the leading killer of children under 5," reported Rabbi Marla Feldman, director of the commission on social action of Reform Judaism.
Feldman stated that URJ is halfway toward it goal of raising $500,000 for the purchase of 50,000 nets. She said that gifts can be made in honor of someone, and that the campaign dovetails perfectly with URJ's promotion of its Ner Shel Tzedakah initiative, which encourages families to set aside the sixth night of Chanukah for a social-justice project.
Feldman added that URJ is targeting its contributions to the Nothing but Nets Campaign, which represents a partnership among numerous organizations, and hopes to help refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan.
A first delivery has been made to a refugee camp in Uganda that's become a temporary home to groups that have fled several war-torn African nations.
Said Feldman: "Especially in these economic times, $10 can go a really long way."
For more information, see: www.urj.org/relief/nets.