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Charity vetting questioned March 12, 2010 By Cara Hogan Advocate Staff http://www.thejewishadvocate.com/news/2010-0312/Top_News/CJP_tangles_with_blogger_over_Israel.html When conservative blogger Hillel Stavis combed through the tax returns of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, he didn’t like what he saw. On his blog, JStreetJive.com, Stavis last week listed 10 organizations that receive money through CJP’s Donor Advised Funds that he considered to be anti-Israel. “These groups have been committed to a one-state or no-state solution in Israel,” Stavis told the Advocate. Among others, he cited the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, which he accused of supporting Israel Apartheid Week; Media Matters; the New Israel Fund; Physicians for Social Responsibility; Amnesty International; the Workmen’s Circle; and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, which is now part of J Street. “CJP reserves the right to accept or refuse those donations,” said Stavis, whose blog is subtitled “Tracking Israel’s Jewish Defamers.” Barry Shrage, the president of CJP, said Stavis had got it wrong. “The idea that CJP is not a strong supporter of Israel is just crazy,” Shrage said. “We did not give money to the Unitarian Church in Cambridge – that church backs the boycott of Israel and all kinds of terrible things.” Shrage said the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee is not the same entity as the local church. “Stavis is confused,” said Shrage. “The only grant made ever, for only about $1,000, out of $50 million in funding, was to Darfur relief, which they [the Universalist committee] were involved in. We don’t agree with every statement they make, but they are not backing a boycott or in favor of Israel’s destruction.” CJP established Donor Advised Funds to make it more convenient for contributors to give to a variety of causes. They give a single gift and tell CJP how they wish it to be allocated. CJP verifies each organization’s tax exempt status, makes sure it’s fiscally sound and looks at the mission statement.
Stavis said that CJP should do a more thorough investigation. “A mission statement is essentially a PR statement. What you have to do is look at the group’s activity,” he said. “Theoretically, you could give a donation to the social welfare wing of Hamas because theoretically that helps people, but that wouldn’t be appropriate.” Shrage said CJP could not begin to get involved in a political discussion about the groups that Stavis targeted. “There are things Jews disagree about, but we don’t demonize them and throw them out of the community,” said Shrage. “But there are some programs that are really so far outside of our mission that we have to be careful about passing funds to them.” Lisa Gallatin, executive director of the Workmen’s Circle in Brookline, also took issue with Stavis for calling her group anti-Israel. “We are part of an increasingly influential American Jewish voice that is pushing Israel toward a negotiated two-state solution,” said Gallatin, whose organization describes itself as a “Center for Jewish Culture and Social Justice.” “Yes, we are critical of some of the policies of the Israeli government, but it’s not anti-Israel to question.” She went on to question Stavis’ motivations: “Is he suggesting CJP should dictate who those individual donors choose to support?” Daniel Sokatch, the CEO of the New Israel Fund, said in an email his organization had been working for 30 years to empower “Israelis on the ground to advocate for the ideals of an evolving, responsive democratic society.” Last year, more than $25 million flowed into Donor Advised Funds and CJP received an administrative fee to cover the costs of investigation. “Donor advised funds go to 1,100 organizations,” said Shrage. “[We] went through those organizations with a fine tooth comb [when the program started] and were able to find at most 10 that were in any way troubling.” He said CJP has been using the same vetting system for 35 years without any questions having been raised. “Now I believe we’ll have to look more closely, but for some passthrough organizations that have a wide variety of recipients, you’ll have to be the FBI to find out everything,” said Shrage. “If there are significant problems, then we’ll look a little more deeply.” However Shrage said he was disappointed in the tone of Stavis’ writing, which was titled “Guess who’s dining at CJP’s trough?” “At a time of polarization when the Jewish people need to treat each other with kindness, it’s troubling,” said Shrage. “I respect the people who did the blog; I think they have the best interest of the Jewish people at heart. But we need to be cognizant that a little forbearance and mutual respect goes a long way.”
Jewish Advocate, Boston Enough with the ‘big tent’
By Charles Jacobs March 12, 2010
There were reports last week that the Combined Jewish Philanthropies is distributing funds to organizations most Boston Jews would define as anti-Israel. The money is not part of CJP’s community funds, but comes through a separate program: Donor Advised Funds. DAF’s are an important part of CJP community services, used by donors to save taxes and administrative costs. Boston Jews write checks to the CJP, then recommend distributions to specific charities. The vast majority of the organizations on CJP’s approved list serve the community. Many are important pro-Israel groups. But, given last week’s revelations, CJP needs to revisit its DAF lists. It was Hillel Stavis, the veteran pro-Israel activist and businessman, who researched and posted this story on his blog, www.jstreetjive.com. Hillel cited 10 DAF organizations he thinks work against Israel’s interests: • The American Friends Service Committee • Democracy Now! • The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) • The Tides Foundation • Media Matters • The New Israel Fund • Brit Tzedek v’Shalom
• Physicians for Social Responsibility • The Workmen’s Circle • Amnesty International The Unitarians!? Maybe a naive Jewish donor saw some Unitarian program that feeds starving children, but surely we can choose philanthropies that don’t support our enemies. If any Jewish money got to the UUSC – even a little – that would be a mistake. On March 14, the Utilitarian church in Cambridge will host an “Israel Apartheid Week” program featuring a film on Israeli “racism” and a talk by the loathsome Noam Chomsky. Not one Jewish dime should go to the American Friends Service Committee, a determined battler against the Jewish state. Not a nickel for Democracy Now!, which hectors Israel, promotes the Goldstone Report and is outraged that Israel might have assassinated the Hamas monster in Dubai. Media Matters posts articles bashing Congress for not condemning Israel for its “disproportionate use of force” in Gaza. CJP, according to Stavis, directed $200,000 to them in 2007. CJP should not funnel Jewish funds to Amnesty International, moral hypocrites who employ a human rights facade to promote an anti-Israel, anti-America agenda. Amnesty condemns Israel more regularly than they condemn all the human rights horrors inflicted on people around the world by the global jihad. Amnesty still refuses to condemn the Islamic oppression of “dhimmis” – subjugated Christians, Jews, Bahais and Hindus in Muslim countries – the most obvious human rights violation on the planet. These non-Jewish cases are relatively straightforward. The more difficult question is what to do with the Jewish far left – Jews who stand for selfless moral purity, who stand for everyone except Jews; self-indulgent Jewish moral giants who seek respect from the goyim by demonstrating how critical they are of their own kind. It was recently found that the New Israel Fund gives money to groups who promote boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and the branding of Israel as an apartheid state. And what about Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, now our local J Street branch? Jewish Federations have a “structural problem” – they have to raise funds to educate Jewish children and to care for Jewish needy and elders. They need money from everyone in the community, so they seek to please every warring political faction. Perhaps in the past, we could afford to turn a blind eye in the name of the greater good, but not anymore. Today world Jewry faces dangerous, growing threats. We risk everything if we abide Jews who promote their suicidal moral superiority with unbalanced critiques of Israel. It won’t be easy for Jewish leaders to forego the dollars of those Jews who join – actively
or passively – with Israel’s enemies, claiming they love Israel but have to bash it to save it from itself. But strong Jewish leaders, I believe, should evict them from the “Big Tent.” It’s time we made a crucial distinction. On the one hand there are people who love Israel, who understand that Israel faces an existential threat, that it is not perfect but superior to most nations on earth. They understand that Israel and Jews are being demonized on a global level and Israel needs the Jewish Diaspora to support it in its struggle for survival. Some of these people might think that Israel would be wise to make concessions or to create a partition with the Palestinians, but they continue to defend Israel with all their might if she does not, or cannot. Then there are people and organizations whose search for some abstract undefined “social justice” is the essence of their identity, “tikkunistas” who have hijacked Judaism to suit their secular agenda, and who validate their leftist credentials by demanding that Israel make concessions “for peace.” Israel’s failure to be perfect taints them, diminishes them as virtuous “citizens of the world.” They allow – or even promote – the hateful defamations that they hope may force Israel to become sufficiently virtuous for them to support. We live in difficult times. CJP does great work, but it should review its DAF lists. We cannot direct funds – even small amounts – to organizations that cause us harm. What good is a big tent when factions we have sheltered – and funded – betray us to the wolves?
Editorial: Which charities are kosher? March 12, 2010
There is something of a witch hunt going on regarding Jewish philanthropies. It’s not altogether a bad thing, nor is it altogether a good thing, either. On his blog, JStreetJive.com, Hillel Stavis unleashes an attack on Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ Donor Advised Funds. With these funds, CJP serves as a middleman for donors who wish to give to an array of designated organizations, but not have to worry about all the bookkeeping. CJP reserves the right to reject particular charities, but it does not subject them to the same level of scrutiny that it applies to beneficiaries of its unrestricted funds. Stavis, whose mission is clear from the subtitle of his Web site (Tracking Israel’s Jewish Defamers), last week posted a list of 10 organizations that receive money through CJP’s
Donor Advised Funds that he considers anti- Israel. In his column on the opposite page, Charles Jacobs lists them all, along with a “big attaboy!” for Stavis. On the list is the New Israel Fund, which has found itself in a similar bind to that of CJP thanks to its partnerships with other foundations, such as the Ford Israel Fund, whose grantees don’t always have Israel’s best interests at heart. The New Israel Fund was nearly subjected to a Knesset inquiry last month for donating money to organizations that testified against the Israeli military in the Goldstone Report. Looking over Stavis’ list, we too are troubled by some of the beneficiaries. For example, as Jacobs points out, Amnesty International seems to have taken particular relish in lambasting Israel, while giving little consideration to its precarious security position. One could reasonably ask why any non-Jewish organization is among the Donor Advised Funds, but then who could object to CJP supporting causes such as Haitian earthquake relief? Given Stavis’ political leanings, we’re not surprised that Brit Tzedek (now an arm of J Street) and Workmen’s Circle are on his list. But those groups exemplify the problem of trying to decide who is indeed pro-Israel. Should J Street be bumped just because it doesn’t automatically side with whatever government happens to be in power in Israel? Even if that were the test, given the conflicting statements of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, it’s hard to say from day to day just what Israel’s government thinks. Workmen’s Circle has supported efforts at JewishMuslim dialogue and raised humanitarian concerns about the treatment of Palestinians. Perhaps some of its efforts have been naïve, even misguided, but its goal is clearly peace, not the destruction of Israel. Stavis may not like what they’re doing, but should he be the arbiter? That said, Stavis is providing a service to the Jewish community by turning the spotlight onto CJP. Last year, more than $25 million flowed into Donor Advised Funds. Contributors chose to give via CJP in part because they trusted its seal of approval. In return, CJP must earn that trust by being a vigilant watchdog. If that watchdog has indeed been asleep, we can thank Stavis for waking it up.
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