The worldwide organization that runs an independent school system for more than 90,000 students in Israel has been thrown into chaos amid charges of a lack of financial transparency, slander and turf warfare, The Jewish Week has learned.
Millions of dollars are at stake in the battle that pits World ORT against ORT Israel, which has just broken away from its parent body. Caught in the fray is ORT America, which is charging that ORT Israel is perched to pounce on its American donors.
Hawaiian Gardens, Calif.: Francelia Morales, a 36-year-old Mexican immigrant living in a roach-infested, leaky apartment with mildewed walls, has been thinking a lot about the crisis in the Middle East lately.
"I feel a link to the Palestinians I never knew before," she said as she sat with her husband and three children amid the cardboard storage boxes, children's toys and English-language instruction video cassettes that crowd her small living room.
Her neighbor from just a few doors down feels similarly.
Chai L’Yisrael, the cheaper of the two at $180 round trip from New York, is offering flights tied to the May 17 election for prime minister and parliament, the Knesset. The latter will decide the fate of the Orthodox religious parties.
Kesher’s round-trip flights are for an expected June 1 runoff between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud Party and Ehud Barak of the left-leaning One Israel Party. Kesher’s fares are $449 from New York and $649 from Los Angeles.
In the clearest account to date of how Israeli political candidates exploit U.S. charities for their campaign needs, an activist for Israel’s new centrist party, Mercaz, this week detailed its plans to raise at least $750,000 from U.S. donors through an American nonprofit organization.
“[We’ve] created a ‘Friends of Mercaz’-type agency to which people can actually donate their money,” enthused Shelly Sitton, referring to the Mercaz Party. “The other parties have been doing it for decades.”
With some 53,000 residents in the state’s rural north-central flatlands, Monroe, La., is not the kind of town that would normally expect to play host to the mayor of Jerusalem. But in October 2002, Ehud Olmert came to the county seat of Ouachita Parish to urge 500 to 1,000 Evangelical Christians to give, and give generously, to support victims of terrorism in the Holy City he then governed.
Tax experts this week sharply questioned a New York State Assembly member’s use of a religious charity run by a convicted tax evader to fund a campaign to get Israel’s prime minister to resign.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind raised some $40,000 to run full-page ads in Jewish newspapers last month calling on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to quit and urging supporters to back his cause by writing tax-deductible checks to a charity called Yad Moshe. Both pre- and post-ad contributions were channeled through Yad Moshe.
A Brooklyn rabbi charged with having sexually molested his students has collected almost $70,000 from Yeshiva Torah Temimah and entities linked to it since the school put him on administrative leave 22 months ago.
Rabbi Yehuda Kolko received payments ranging from $3,000 to $9,000 per month between May 2006 and December 2007, according to court records obtained by The Jewish Week.
The court records also suggest that before Rabbi Kolko left the school, he received tens of thousands of dollars above his reported yearly income at the school’s direction.
“Congratulations to the Yankees on a well-purchased victory,” writes Dan Gerstein, a political consultant, on his Facebook status.
Within 24 hours this week, the highest spending politician in the world and the top-spending sports franchise both celebrated victories. Yet neither can claim a blow-out. Mike Bloomberg walked away with a 5 percent margin over an opponent who sent a tenth as much, losing some 200,000 of his 2005 supporters.