Willie Rapfogel's Downfall in Scandal Means Murky Future for Jewish Programs

Unfolding Kickback Scheme Erases Decades of Connections

Sudden Fall: William Rapfogel took decades building up a political network that delivered funding to Jewish poverty programs in good years and bad. What happens now that he is gone?
met council
Sudden Fall: William Rapfogel took decades building up a political network that delivered funding to Jewish poverty programs in good years and bad. What happens now that he is gone?

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published August 14, 2013, issue of August 23, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Rapfogel used his accumulated influence and his many relationships to attract millions of dollars each year in government grants for his own organization and for the smaller Jewish community councils and Jewish social service groups that rely on the Met Council. Government funds make up between a half and a third of the Met Council’s operating budget each year. The group reported receiving $11.5 million in government grants in 2010 and $15.5 million in 2009.

That’s a lot for a locally focused not-for-profit. The Met Council got $3.6 million in discretionary funding from the New York City Council between 2009 and 2013, more than all but 30 of the more than 3,000 not-for-profits and governmental entities that received discretionary funding in that period.

The Met Council’s own anti-poverty programs include senior housing, family services, and food aid. Those efforts are central to the New York Jewish community’s anti-poverty work, which have gained increased attention since the June publication of a report by UJA-Federation of New York which found that one out of every five Jews in the New York area is poor. The number of poor Jews has nearly doubled since 1991, from 169,000 to 308,000, the report stated.

Rapfogel was a member of the committee that guided the creation of the report. In a June interview timed to its publication, Rapfogel told the Forward of a raft of anti-poverty efforts his organization was pursuing. They included outreach to poor families, job programs, and affordable housing.

While Rapfogel is gone from the Met Council, his power has yet to wholly fade. Rapfogel’s wife continues to hold a highly influential position at Silver’s side in Albany, leaving some wary of speaking on the record about his firing and its implications.

And Rapfogel still has strong public defenders. Heshy Jacob, the third member of the Lower East Side power troika and a highly influential figure in that neighborhood, praised Rapfogel on August 12. “He is one of the most decent human beings in the world,” Jacob said. “This is a man who has helped the poor his entire life.”

Jewish communal insiders almost exclusively reported shock at the news of Rapfogel’s firing and his apology. “That was the last thing I would have expected,” said Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the New York City-based Friedlander Group, a lobbying firm. “The very last thing.”

Despite having been at the helm of the Met Council since 1992, Rapfogel cultivated no obvious successor. Current top executives include Ilene Marcus, the group’s chief of staff, who worked as a special assistant to the Mayor during Rudolph Giuliani’s administration.

The Met Council said on August 12 that no employees besides Rapfogel had yet been implicated in the alleged financial misconduct, though the investigation is ongoing.


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!
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • 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.