Seeing Red At Magen David Adom


A power struggle is roiling relations between Magen David Adom, the Israeli Red Cross, and its American Friends group here. At issue is whether the American Friends group should continue overseeing the projects that MDA requests.

The struggle ended with the resignation last week of the American Friends’ entire five-member executive committee.

“We tried to negotiate a new cooperation agreement with them, but we had a difficult time because of their senior leadership,” said Lewis Krinsky, former national chairman of the American Friends of Magen David Adom. “They were making demands that in the opinion of the executive committee would compromise our ability to act as an independent organization.”

Essentially, Krinsky said, Magen David Adom wanted the American Friends group to simply raise money for it and then send that cash to Israel without any oversight or input.

He noted that when he was elected national chairman, two years ago, he and the executive committee “implemented a tremendous cultural change and attempted to bring our group into conformity with the standards that are demanded of an institution like ours.”

Thus, a Projects and Allocations Committee was created to review the grant requests made by MDA. And last year for the first time, the American Friends had an independent external audit of its prior three years.

Miriam Sparrow, the American Friends’ resigned secretary, said there are some “old guard” on the 21-member board who are against the changes, “and the leadership [of MDA] exploited the conflicts.”

Two other members of the board have also quit over the controversy.

The remaining 14 board members are expected to soon sign a new contract with MDA, according to Arnold Gerson, the American Friends’ CEO.

He pointed out that his organization was founded 71 years ago, to be the exclusive fundraiser in the United States for MDA.

“We have always controlled the money to make sure we are responsive to our donors and to make sure it goes where it is supposed to go,” he said. “If we have committed to buying an ambulance or refurbishing an ambulance station, we expect receipts from Israel before we pay them.”

“I understand they [MDA] want the money to flow a little more easily, but we are responsible to our donors here,” Gerson added. “They understand that we are responsible for each dollar raised, and to make sure things run smoothly on both sides.”

The American Friends raises between $20 million and $30 million for MDA.

Robert Kern, American Friends’ director of marketing and communications, said that despite the conflict in approach, “MDA people tour the U.S. on our behalf, nothing has changed in our everyday working relationship.”

Gerson added that the resignations came when board member’s realized that the only way a new contract would be signed was if a new committee negotiated it.