JERUSALEM (Jul. 5)
The annual Assembly of the Jewish Agency for Israel concluded last week without directly addressing the most prominent issue on everyone’s lips: the alleged financial wrongdoings of its chairman, Simcha Dinitz.
But the body’s smaller and more influential Board of Governors approved a measure calling for a study of the allegations by a legal expert and the monitoring of the impact of the allegations on the agency’s fund-raising and operations.
Three American delegates had placed on the Assembly’s agenda a resolution calling for Dinitz to take an immediate leave of absence.
But the delegates were persuaded by the chairman of the Board of Governors, Mendel Kaplan, to withdraw the resolution.
The allegations against Dinitz, which include the improper use of Jewish Agency credit cards to purchase thousands of dollars of personal items, are the subject of a police investigation, requested by Knesset members.
Kaplan has been under pressure by Assembly members to take action on the matter, especially in the wake of a detailed expose on the case that appeared June 25 in The Jerusalem Post.
The Board of Governors resolution calls for a senior advisory group assembled by Kaplan to monitor the impact of the allegations on community fund-raising efforts and to provide weekly reports to Kaplan.
Those reports will then be evaluated by a series of specified fund-raising leaders, after consultation with the leadership of the World Zionist Organization.
The Jewish Agency is the primary beneficiary of the money raised for Israel by the United Jewish Appeal and parallel campaigns globally.
FAITH IN DINITZ ‘HAS BEEN ERODED’
Kaplan also asked a Philadelphia delegate, Judge Abraham Gafni, to study all the allegations and report to him on their accuracy by July 31.
The resolution cautions Gafni to “take into account” during his investigation the legal constraints imposed by the police probe and the Israeli legal system. This is a clear effort to avoid a charge of an obstruction of justice.
The advisory group is charged by the resolution to recommend a course of action to Kaplan by the end of August.
Publicly, many delegates here expressed support for Dinitz. But privately, some expressed doubts about whether he could remain a successful fund-raiser in light of the scandal.
“My faith in Simcha has not been eroded,” said Hadassah President Deborah Kaplan. “I believe that when the history books are written, his contributions to the country will be recognized. No one else could have brought in half a million immigrants in just three years.”
This sentiment was echoed by Martin Kraar, executive vice president of the Council of Jewish Federations. He chastised the media for focusing on the controversy at the expense of the agency’s achievements.
UJA President Brian Lurie likewise defended Dinitz’s right to remain in office. But he acknowledged that organizational leaders “must also be sensitive to the needs of their members, and to address their concerns.”