Indicating that in the sacred name of charity, racketeers in New York find their most fertile fields as representatives of fake Jewish religious enterprises, Stanley Howe, Chief Deputy Commissioner in the Department of Welfare declared war yesterday on a number of charity rackets, the majority of which prey on Jews.
Howe recently brought to light sufficient evidence to secure the license revocation of two outfits whose aggregate receipts ran into many thousands of dollars.
“We are now ready with the facts regarding five other agencies of a similar nature,” he wrote to Mayor LaGuardia, “which are exploiting the poor and employing the name of “charity” to secure money from the public by fraud and misrepresentation for the personal enrichment of unscrupulous promoters.”
Of the five rackets now under investigation, four represent themselves to be of a Jewish religious nature. One is a “synagogue” with a Catholic name.
“This ‘synagogue,’ ” Howe said yesterday, “appears to be making money hand over fist. A battery of telephone solicitors, trading on religion, takes Catholics and Jews alike for sums, which when totalled amount to enough to build a real synagogue. The organization, needless to say, has neither synagogue nor temple, but because it is incorporated as a Jewish synagogue we are unable to crack down on the racket,”
The law on such rackets is enfeebled, Howe revealed, by dispensations granted religious and fraternal societies from being specially licensed for charity drives. Licenses for securing money or donations of any sort in public must be obtained from the Department of Welfare,, under a section of the New York ordinances. Another section, however, makes the ruling inapplicable under the religious corporation’s law, to such organizations as the one described.
“In the immediate future,” said Howe, “I hope to have this rule revised so that all groups soliciting funds will have to be licensed. The reason, of course, is for the protection of the public and the legitimate charitable organizations I believe the legitimate groups will support the movement. They are the first to be burnt by fraudulent solicitors.”
Howe said that solicitors frequently represented themselves over the telephone to be prominent citizens, the mayor, the governor, or judges, in seeking contributions. The title “Rabbi” is also frequently utilized in gaining subscriptions to false causes.
The most recent case, that of Jacob Bienenfeld, who operates a “Henry Street Center,” and described himself as a rabbi, has been turned into the hands of Assistant District Attorney James Neary by Howe. Howe contends that Bienenfeld is capitalizing on the likeness of the name to the old Henry Street Settlement founded by Lillian D. Wald. Many of the subscribers to the latter institution are on the former’s solicitation list.