Is He Beacon for the Jews of Lithuania?

Activist Harley Felstein Leaves Trail of Critics and Questions

Cleaning Up: Reve. Mindaugas Diksaitis, right, a volunteer associated with Harley Felstein, leads a group cleaning up a Jewish cemetery in Lithuania.
courtesy of harley felstein
Cleaning Up: Reve. Mindaugas Diksaitis, right, a volunteer associated with Harley Felstein, leads a group cleaning up a Jewish cemetery in Lithuania.

By Paul Berger

Published July 30, 2012, issue of August 03, 2012.
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When the Forward followed up with Karimi two weeks later, on July 13, Karimi said he never spoke to Felstein and that no payment had arrived.

Other businesses have sued Felstein for nonpayment of his debts.

Felstein was a defendant in three civil lawsuits in Maryland last year. Two of those suits related to the Jewish Cemetery Renewal Project of North America, a not-for-profit Felstein incorporated in 2011 with the aim of identifying “Jewish cemeteries which are abandoned or in distressed shape.”

A consulting firm settled out of court in a suit over unpaid invoices totaling almost $2,000. A computer consulting company won a $5,000 lawsuit against Felstein for unpaid invoices.

Felstein lost a third lawsuit brought by a debt buyer, First Resolution Investment Corporation, related to more than $6,000 he owed from the time he lived in Oregon, where he ran a company called Premier Israeli Products. Felstein filed for personal bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Oregon, in 2008, the same year that he moved to Maryland.

Separately, the Lithuanian Jewish Heritage Project has come to the attention of Maryland charities officials.

Last September, Felstein organized a concert at Tifereth Israel Congregation, in Washington, where five cantors performed in front of an audience of about 175 people. Tickets cost between $35 and $75.

Michael Schlein, a charities investigator in the Office of the Maryland Secretary of State, said that because Felstein has not filed fundraising paperwork with the Maryland secretary of state he is not allowed to solicit contributions.

“It’s illegal,” Schlein said. “The Lithuanian Jewish Heritage Project and the Sunflower Project, if a part thereof, shouldn’t be soliciting any money and should not be [part of] any charitable appeals.”

Felstein said the event did not count as a fundraiser because it didn’t make a profit.


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