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!
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • 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.