Friday, June 28, 2013

AG: Israeli Aid Never Reaches Recipients

by Gary Snyder

The 19 charities all had buzzwords in their names intended to appeal to Jews eager to help Israel — including Hatzalah, a reference to the volunteer ambulance service primarily serving Jewish communities, and Zaka, a reference to the organization that assists victims of terrorist attacks.

But Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York State, charged that the operators of the charities “brazenly abused the generosity of the public” by withdrawing more than $2.5 million for their personal and family expenses from 2007 to 2013. He said the expenses included home mortgages, the remodeling of a second home, car loans, dentist visits, video rentals and a trip to the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City.

Only a small amount of the donated money actually wound up in Israel. The defendants even bounced at least 2,100 checks, and wasted $65,000 of charitable donations in overdraft fees, the attorney general charged. (source)

Among the organizations named in the lawsuit are Hatzalah Rescue of Israel, Bnei Torah, the Israel Leukemia and Cancer Society and Zaka Israel. Only 2 of the 19 entities were even registered in Israel. Others did not file tax returns that protected their tax-exempt status, Mr. Schneiderman said.

The organizations solicited money by mail, telephone and the Internet, often falsely telling donors that they had failed to follow up on a pledge or that they had previously donated to the charity, the complaint said. The name of an organization like Magen Israel played off the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross. The solicitations also used “doctored photographs” of workers and equipment belonging to actual Israeli emergency organizations, the complaint said.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more Nonprofits: On the Brink (2006) Silence: The Impending Threat to the Charitable Sector (2011)
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