Religious Affairs Minister Accused of Improprieties

Avner Shaki, the recently appointed minister of religious affairs, has been accused of improprieties in the disbursement of bequests to various charities.

The Israeli branch of the World Union for Progressive Judaism filed a complaint over the weekend against Shaki, following a television report alleging the improper allocations.

Shaki, a member of the National Religious Party, has denied any wrongdoing on his part or on the part of any of his family or aides.

The television report, which was prepared with the help of members of the Progressive Union, claimed that the ministerial committee that handles bequests left to the state handed out some 1 million shekels (about $500,000) in grants to charitable societies of which Shaki’s wife, son and son-in-law were founders and members.

The funds have not yet been remitted to the recipients.

According to the report, broadcast July 12, the charities in question were established and registered in an accelerated bureaucratic process last year, thanks to the direct written intervention of Shaki, who was at the time a minister without portfolio.

Shaki insists that the charities were genuine, that his family was sincerely involved in their work and, most importantly, that he instructed them all to resign from the societies as soon as the ministerial committee had made its decisions, “so as to avoid any loose tongues.”

Shaki told the daily Yediot Achronot that if the resignations of his relatives had not yet been formally recorded by the Registrar of Charitable Foundations, that was merely due to bureaucratic slowness.

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