Scandal Of The Year

It was a year of abundant scandal in the Jewish communal world, with institutions ranging from the Claims Conference ($57 million phony claims scam), Yeshiva University (sexual abuse charges) and even the 92nd Y (top administrators involved in a kickback scheme) forced into damage control by the conduct of top administrators. But none was as shocking as the sudden firing of William Rapfogel as CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. For more than two decades his was the face of crisis and compassion, that familiar grin emanating from news stories about a perpetual “perfect storm” of increased demand for services and diminished resources.

Now Rapfogel, who consorted with mayors, senators, governors and presidents, was accused of bilking Met Council’s government benefactors and private donors in an insurance overpayment scheme, which may have netted him $1 million and allowed him to gain influence through straw donations to political campaigns. Even more shocking: he has yet to dispute the charges. He publicly apologized for unspecified "mistakes" on the same day he was fired in August and did not enter a plea when he was arrested the following month. According to prosecutors, he has handed over a staggering amount of cash he had hidden in his apartment. At year’s end, we wait to learn if Rapfogel will go to jail and if his wife, Judy, the top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, will be implicated.

Of greater concern: the needs of tens of thousands of New Yorkers of all faiths who receive food, shelter and crisis intervention programs through the venerable organization as it struggles to get back on track — and regain frozen city funding — under a new CEO, David Frankel.

Adam Dickter