Jewish charities have a rough day in the Chronicle


Monday was not a good day for Jewish charities in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s daily philanthropy news update.

Usually I am thrilled when the daily e-mail contains a Jewish bit (makes for easy blogposts — and I love giving shout-outs to the Chronicle).

Well, yesterday’s update contained not one, but two Jewish items — including the lead news item.

Unfortunately that lead link led to the following story:  “N.J. Suspects Accused of Using Charities to Launder Cash”

I’m sure you know what this is about, but just in case the Chronicle explains in its summary of the story to which it links.

Federal authorities say suspects charged last week in a massive New Jersey corruption probe used Jewish charities to launder millions of dollars, the Asbury Park Press reports.

The Asbury Park Press story that the Chronicle sites, however, is one of the best I have read about the New Jewsey mess and is worth the read:

They talked in code. Cash was "gemoras." Money-laundering contacts were "washing machines." They met in cars, on a Brooklyn street corner, inside a bakery, and in a synagogue.

Tens of thousands of dollars in cash was transported in plastic bags, in boxes of Apple Jacks and Cinnabon Crunch cereal, and even a box decorated with Power Rangers stickers.

The men the FBI arrested July 23 and charged with being part of a massive international money-laundering scheme were, for all intent and purpose, "crime bosses," acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra Jr. said.

But at least several of them were, in fact, religious leaders in the tight-knit Syrian Jewish communities of Deal and Brooklyn, N.Y. They stand accused of using Jewish charities they controlled to launder millions of dollars in cash.


The daily update gets better (well, worse). A few items down, the Chronicle links to a Bloomberg News story, "Charity for Israeli Youths in Court Battle With Madoff Trustee."

As the Chronicle explains:

A New York agency that serves homeless and runaway youths in Israel is pressing a claim in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to get $4.72-million from the liquidation of Bernard Madoff’s investment firm, Bloomberg reports.

ELEM/Youth in Distress Israel filed an objection last week asserting that Madoff trustee Irving Picard wrongfully rejected its claim to the full amount of its final account balance with the disgraced financier. Mr. Picard approved paying about $26,000 to the charity, representing the difference between what it invested with Mr. Madoff from 2001 to 2007 and the amount it withdrew.

Don’t worry. I am not calling out the Chronicle. They are still my philanthropic Bible. And in fairness, the third news item they post, “Major Security Firm Trains Religious Groups on Crime Prevention,” links to a Religion News Service story about a Christian group working to help make churches more secure, as they have become the victims of violent crime:

ASIS International started its House of Worship Security Working Group in January in response to a rise in crime against faith groups. According to the Christian Security Group, churches sustained $6.3-million in losses due to crime in the first half of 2009 and were the sites of six homicides.

I might have become upset if the Chronicle or RNS had insinuated that Jews were most often the perpetrators of the violent crimes against the churches. Though after the past couple of years, nothing would surprise me if that was indeed a true story.

The update could have been worse, as the Chronicle also linked to a Kansas City Star story headlined “Kauffman Foundation Suspends Kansas City School Grants.” The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which has given away more than $78 million to schools in its hometown since 2004, will no longer do so, according to the story. Given the Kauffman name, and given that the foundation gave out $50,000 to the Institute of Jewish and Communal Research in 2009, I called to find out a little more. But the Kauffmans were Presbyterian, according to a spokesperson for the foundation.

Thank God for small miracles.

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