JERUSALEM (Jul. 13)
The ongoing police investigation of Simcha Dinitz reached the chairman of the Jewish Agency himself this week, when he was called into police headquarters here for questioning.
Dinitz was questioned Tuesday about allegations that he made improper personal use of Jewish Agency credit cards.
The police, investigating charges filed by two Knesset members, have already examined Jewish Agency documents in both Jerusalem and New York.
Dinitz has announced, meanwhile, that he will not quit his post as long as no legal charges are pressed against him.
In a letter to members of the Jewish Agency Assembly, which convened in Jerusalem two weeks ago, Dinitz said the organization faces the question of “whether we are to surrender to press allegations or await the legal determination of the democratic process of Israel.
“Are we going to have a trial by the press or are we to follow the accepted dictum that a person is innocent, and should be treated as such, unless he is proven guilty?” he wrote.
That approach was echoed in New York, when the Cabinet of the American Zionist Movement expressed support for Dinitz, who also chairs the World Zionist Organization. AZM President Seymour Reich subsequently circulated a statement of support.
The statement, which was signed by Reich and nine other former chairmen of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said the embattled Jewish Agency chairman “deserves better than the public opprobrium to which he has been subjected” and urges that he be given “the fair chance he merits.”
Of all the former chairmen still active in Jewish communal life, only one did not sign the statement: Shoshana Cardin, who is the only one who has been involved with the Jewish Agency on the side of the federations and fund-raising organizations that pay its bills.
Cardin said she would reserve judgment until the completion of an internal assessment being undertaken for the Jewish Agency Board of Governors.
Those involved with the Jewish Agency from the fund-raising side seem much less inclined to heed Dinitz’s call for postponing all judgment until possible judicial resolution, which could take months or years if the case is not quickly dropped.
Norman Lipoff, chairman of the board of the United Israel Appeal, which represents United Jewish Appeal and federation activists in the Jewish Agency, drew criticism from Dinitz supporters for a letter seeking to distinguish between the alleged misconduct of Dinitz and the general health and success of the organization.
He noted that the leadership of the fundraising organizations, including UIA, UJA and the Council of Jewish Federations, have been charged with monitoring the effect the Dinitz scandal has on the fund-raising drives and with taking “a proper course of action” no later than Aug. 31.
What this implies, say Dinitz supporters, is a demand that Dinitz step down by the end of the summer.
(Contributing to this report was JTA staff writer Larry Yudelson in New York.)