Jewish Charities Oppose Salary Cap

Cuomo's Proposed Rule Wouldn't Affect Jewish Groups

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published February 09, 2012, issue of February 17, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

New York Jewish charities are lining up against a new rule aimed at curbing executive salaries at not-for-profit organizations that get state funding, even though it likely won’t affect any Jewish groups.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s order, which would cap at $199,000 the amount of state dollars that could be used for an executive’s salary, would likely not impact most Jewish institutions because they don’t rely exclusively on state cash, experts said.

But New York Jewish charity officials are pushing back anyway, because they question the focus on compensation at charities.

“Excessive compensation paid to a few nonprofit executives, particularly when paid from limited state dollars, represents a waste of resources that could be devoted to program services,” UJA-Federation of New York stated in testimony it submitted to the state Senate along with four major non-Jewish charity umbrella groups opposed to the reforms. “An extensive set of tools… already enables New York State to identify those cases and address them.”

The groups added that they see no evidence that the problem of excessive executive compensation at state-funded not-for-profits is “widespread and persistent.”

Cuomo’s move comes amid a wave of broader efforts at charity reform in New York, where headlines over the past year have disclosed high-profile examples of mismanagement at state-funded not-for-profits.

Supporters and opponents of the current effort agree that it won’t do much to rein in salaries.

The executive order caps at $199,000 the amount of state funds that can be used to compensate an executive at a not-for-profit. The order also requires that three-quarters of state funds given to a not-for-profit be used for operating expenses as opposed to administrative costs.

But the regulations would allow not-for-profits to pay officials out of other revenue streams, such as grants, donations, city or federal funding, and fees for services.

“There are many ways of getting around it,” said William Josephson, former head of the Charities Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office, of the salary cap. “Nevertheless, it’s a positive step.”

Daniel Kurtz, who also once led the Charities Bureau, disagreed.

“I don’t think you have to pay people millions a year, but there is a real marketplace, and this is a clumsy interference with it,” Kurtz said.

In Florida, a similar bill moving through the statehouse, would limit compensation at less than $130,000 for groups that get more than two-thirds of their budget from the state.

Salaries of top professionals at leading Jewish communal institutions can range as high as $700,000, according to an annual survey published by the Forward last December. The highest salary of a New York-based Jewish official included in the Forward’s 2010 survey was that of Jerry Silverman of the Jewish Federations of North America, who earned $625,000.

Silverman and other big Jewish not-for-profit earners in the state, like Steven Schwager of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and John Ruskay of UJA-Federation of New York, would not be affected by the new limits, as their organizations do not receive state funding.

William Rapfogel of the New York-based Metropolitan Coucil on Jewish Poverty, earned $435,000 in 2009, including benefits and deferred compensation, and his organization took in nearly $100 million in government funding, including contracts with state agencies. But his salary wouldn’t be impacted, either, as he can be paid out of other revenue streams.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or on Twitter @joshnathankazis


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!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • 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.