Kars4Kids Charity Loses Big on Real Estate

$29 Million in Gifts Translates to Just $6 Million in Programs

Lots of Losses: Kars4Kids gets thousands of cars donated by people who think they’re helping children. Little of the money actually went to programs, like this idyllic Jewish summer camp.
courtesy of oorah
Lots of Losses: Kars4Kids gets thousands of cars donated by people who think they’re helping children. Little of the money actually went to programs, like this idyllic Jewish summer camp.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published January 20, 2012, issue of January 27, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A multimillion dollar nationwide advertising campaign featuring an inescapable radio jingle and a freckle-faced boy in a convertible has brought the Orthodox Jewish charity known as Kars4Kids more than 60,000 donated vehicles a year.

Those gifts, worth $29 million, support Orthodox outreach to non-Orthodox Jews, including a fancy summer camp for Jewish children.

But Kars4Kids and Oorah Inc., an affiliated not-for-profit organization, lost nearly as much speculating on real estate in 2010 as they spent on programming.

The two closely linked organizations wrote off a combined $5.25 million in losses that year after lenders foreclosed on three separate real estate developments. A fourth development, foreclosed on in 2009, had earlier wiped out $3 million in donated funds.

Meanwhile, Oorah, the operation’s program arm, spent only $6.3 million of the $29 million collected by Kars4Kids on program expenses in 2010, despite the fact that the organizations hold a combined $39 million in assets.

“[Kars4Kids] promotional materials say that the donation will benefit children,” wrote Sarah Holloway, an expert at not-for-profit management and a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, in an email to the Forward. “I don’t think donors would be pleased if they found out that some of these monies were going toward anything other than that programming and reasonable overhead.”

Jeffrey Stern, Oorah controller and chief financial officer, defended the organization’s financial practices. “We do keep our promise to donors that their gifts will benefit children, and we are proud of the fact that one way we do it is by planning and investing in the long term,” Stern wrote in an email to the Forward. He said that his organization’s investment program “actually exceeded” not-for-profit oversight standards.

This high-profile charity campaign has made news before. Kars4Kids has previously paid cash settlements to attorneys general in two states over its failure to identify its activities in advertisements as benefiting a specific religious group. In early January, a federal jury found that Oorah owed more than $300,000 in scholarships to a Staten Island Jewish day school.

Based in Lakewood, N.J., Oorah operates summer camps for boys and girls and offers mentorships, scholarships to Jewish day schools and other programs that seek to bring Orthodox Jewish life to non-observant Jews. The organization actively serves 2,000 families, according to Yehoshua B. Weinstein, Oorah’s director of outreach development.

“Our goal is to be able to offer them opportunities,” Weinstein said. “I think anybody who comes to an Oorah program — you would be touched, and it would make a difference in your life. That’s the point of what we’re doing. We’re not here to particularly change people, we’re here to be able to offer them different opportunities.”

Oorah’s summer camp facilities are relatively luxurious. The camps feature petting zoos, horseback riding and game rooms with video game systems. Oorah also offers a matchmaking program for the newly religious.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.