Little Sign of Change at Syrian Charities After Scandal

Has Oversight Group Made Progress Bringing Transparency?

Change? Rabbi Saul Kassin, chief rabbi of Congregation Shaare Zion, in Brooklyn, was at the center of a money-laundering scandal in the Syrian Jewish community. A group that promised new transparency has yet to produce tangible results.
getty images
Change? Rabbi Saul Kassin, chief rabbi of Congregation Shaare Zion, in Brooklyn, was at the center of a money-laundering scandal in the Syrian Jewish community. A group that promised new transparency has yet to produce tangible results.

By Seth Berkman

Published June 05, 2013, issue of June 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Andres Spokoiny, president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network, said he did not have specific data. But his organization has worked with charities in the Syrian community to adopt new standards.

“As a general trend, we see some funders in the Syrian community getting much more strategic and guided by these kind of standards,” Spokoiny said. “I don’t know how representative that is of the entire community, but it is good to see that positive change is happening.”

Full transparency, however, still appears to be a distant dream. Several leading Sephardic charities contacted by the Forward, including the Sephardic Bikur Holim and the Sephardic Heritage Alliance, declined to comment.

In 2009 the JFN created suggested guidelines for non-for-profit and religious organizations seeking support from members of their organization.

“Even if religious organizations are not supposed to present 990s as nonprofits are, we tell funders that they only should fund people that file financial reports or have financial reviews by CPAs,” said Spokoiny, referring to federal tax forms that disclose a not-for-profit group’s finances. “Zero fraud is an impossible goal, but you can certainly minimize it if you follow a set of very clear rules.”

Charendoff, who now heads the Maimonides Fund, an organization that underwrites programs with a focus on enhancing Jewish identity in North America and education in Israel, said a problem remains in the Jewish community involving not-for-profit organizations that are classified as religious organizations. “The transparency that’s required by the government for them is nowhere near sufficient in terms of good practice in the not-for-profit community,” he said. “There are glaring examples of inappropriate behavior when there’s no transparency. The most well-meaning individual is going to be tempted to cut corners if light is not shone on their activities.”

The SCF’s silence on charity reform is the second instance where promises made in the wake of a high-profile scandal have shown few tangible results. The Forward reported in early May that the Magen Tzedek Commission, which promised to create an ethical kosher certification seal in response to the discovery of gross mistreatment of workers at Agriprocessors has yet to place its seal on any product.

Magen Tzedek’s program director, Morris Allen, said it’s time for customers to become more vocal and demonstrate their desire for such a change.

In the case of charity reform, Charendoff echoed a similar statement, saying that to bring about tangible change, the donors themselves have to take an active role.

Contact Seth Berkman at berkman@forward.com.


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!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • 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.
  • 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.