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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Jewish Federation cop out

Last week, I reported that various Jewish Federations in the United States have given large donations to Media Matters for America, a group that is close to the Obama administration and largely populated by Jewish anti-Semites. Media Matters has gone around labeling various pro-Israel Jews 'Israel firsters,' which raises the spectre of dual loyalty and is considered an anti-Semitic slur by the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Adam Kredo went to some of the local Federations that were featured in the article and asked them to comment on why they are donating money to anti-Semites. Most of the Federations declined to comment, but the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, which made the largest donations ($362,500), did comment.
Of the five Jewish charities that have donated to Media Matters, the most prolific is the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, which has given the group $362,500 since 2007.

CJP president Barry Shrage did not respond to multiple requests seeking comment. However, a statement on the organization’s website states that it is not directly responsible for the donations that were made to Media Matters through its funding arm.

“CJP is now—and has always been—one of Israel’s strongest supporters,” the statement said. “The grant in question was from a Donor Advised Fund, and not from CJP’s communal funding allocations.”

Donor-advised grants are primarily controlled by the funder.

“While owned and ultimately controlled by CJP, [donor advised funds] do not involve communal funds, but rather reflect the interests of those individual donors,” the statement said.

The CJP said that it does “reserve the right to reject a grant to organizations whose missions are in conflict with our own and we have done so on several occasions.”
Let's call a spade, a spade. A 'donor advised fund' is essentially a way to turn a donation that would otherwise not be tax deductible into a tax deductible donation. As I understand it, it's commonly used when someone wants to donate money to - for example - an overseas yeshiva that does not have a US corporation (a "501(c)(3)") set up, and typically the go-between will skim a little money off the top for its troubles. As I understand it, the IRS never intended for 'donor advised funds' to be used to make tax deductible political donations.

Second, nothing requires the Federations to accept 'donor advised funds.' And nothing requires the Federations (as they freely admitted) to donate money from a 'donor advised fund' to an organization that is anti-Semitic. I can guarantee you that if they were asked to donate to the Ku Klux Klan, they would say no. So why donate to the bigots at Media Matters?

Third, according to the list released by the Daily Caller, CJP is lying. Only the 2010 donation ($125,000) is listed as 'donor advised funds.' The bulk of the money in question ($37,500 in 2007 and $200,000 in 2008) is listed as 'social service' and 'social research,' respectively, whatever those two phrases mean.

If I were still living in Boston, I would hang up the phone when the Federation calls to ask for money. This is simply outrageous.

By the way, the Community Foundation of the United Jewish Federation of San Diego, which gave $100,000 in 2009 and $50,000 in 2010, lists the contributions as 'general assistance' and 'general support,' and not as 'donor advised funds.'

Perhaps Michael Steinhardt, who has been involved in real Jewish causes (he is one the founders and funders of Birthright) put it best.
“Sadly, Federations around the country are largely in the hands of secular liberals who have little sense of what’s actually Jewish, much less what’s pro-Israel,” said Michael Steinberg, a Maryland resident who stopped contributing to the Washington Federation for these reasons.
That's good advice for all of us.

Are you outraged yet?

Read the whole thing.

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