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Former employees describe an atmosphere of tension between staff and volunteers. The volunteers, former staffers said, are often disdainful of the staff. Staffers, in turn, note that the volunteers often have barely any work experience outside the home.
According to one former Hadassah employee, volunteers “basically rule the roost and give orders without necessarily having experience… to back it up.”
“The way we were treated when we walked into the room, when we were presenting to a meeting, was as if we weren’t people,” the former staff member said. “It was very cruel.”
Staff members have been let go in large numbers since December 2008, when $90 million in purported Hadassah assets invested in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme evaporated.
Hadassah laid off 80 people in January 2009. That May, executive director Morlie Levin left the organization. Her position was never filled. Instead, Falchuk, the organization’s unpaid, elected national president, effectively led the group. She was replaced as national president in July 2011.
Hadassah is currently in the process of searching for a new staff executive director.
Following Levin’s departure, Blum became Hadassah’s highest-ranking staff member. He has been the group’s chief operating officer since the early 2000s. In the mid-1990s, Blum was executive vice president of Lillian Vernon, the mail order clothing company. Previously he had served as human resources director of Crazy Eddie Inc.
In his January 2011 letter to the board, Blum portrayed himself as a reluctant whistleblower.
“Over these 10 years I have worked with many of you on conventions, issues in the country, personnel and operational problems, and filled in for a total of five years when there was no executive director. Never have I ever been ashamed to say ‘I worked for Hadassah’ until now,” Blum wrote. “Individuals’ interests have been put ahead of mission and politics have replaced Jewish values.”
Blum alleged in the letter that Falchuk, who served as Hadassah’s national president from 2007 to 2011, spent “thousands of dollars on wine for entertainment and personal trips to Florida which she charged to her corporate card.”
Blum wrote that the alleged transfer of $10,000 to $20,000 in “furniture and fixtures” from Hadassah’s corporate apartment to Falchuk’s home was made without the approval of the organization’s leadership.
Of Natan, Blum wrote that she had given supporters of her candidacy for national president flight upgrades and extended their trips to Israel made on Hadassah business, all using Hadassah funds.
Natan was elected national president in July 2011. She previously served as Hadassah’s national treasurer.
Blum also claimed that the allegations that he had misused his Hadassah credit card were motivated by an effort on Hadassah’s part to free the organization from the terms of his contract. He claimed that the specific questions about his expenses dealt with sums less than $100. And he alleged that his suspension came soon after his attorney had informed Hadassah that it was possibly breaching his contract.
Blum did not specify how he thought his contract was being breached. A representative for Hadassah would not comment on the charges.
Following inquiries from the Forward about the allegations, Natan and Falchuk emailed board members February 7 to assure them that the charges were “being reviewed by an independent committee with an independent outside investigator.”
“We welcome this review and we are confident that the committee has in place a sensible and fair process for reaching a conclusion as to the allegations and the appropriate action to take, if any, that will protect the interests of Hadassah, its members, employees and officers,” the two leaders wrote.
Kurtz said that he couldn’t say how long the investigation would take, and that the result of his process would be a confidential report to the organization’s board.
Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at email@example.com or on Twitter @joshnathankazis