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A call for more transparency from religious institutions

Jacob BerkmanWorld
Published: 15 February 2010

NEW YORK – A network of philanthropists and family foundations is calling for greater transparency from Jewish religious institutions.

Most American nonprofits are required to file 990 tax forms that make public how the organizations pay their top employees and allocate money to outside organizations. But religious institutions such as synagogues, day schools, yeshivas, and Chabad outposts are under no such obligation.

Prompted by this summer’s money-laundering scandal in Deal and Brooklyn involving a number of synagogues, the Jewish Funders Network has drafted a list of guidelines that essentially would require religious institutions to be as transparent as other nonprofits.

The network, which represents hundreds of major funders of Jewish organizations, is asking its members to insist that the organizations they fund adopt the following standards:

• Organizations should have governing boards that have financial oversight for the organization’s expenses and transactions.

• Organizations should be open to independent audits and should make financial data available upon donor request.

• Compensation of the chief executive should be decided by a compensation committee.

• Organization should draft a code of ethics that includes among other issues non-conflict of interest, whistleblower, and gift acceptance policies.

“We engaged in discussions with our members and found that some just weren’t aware of what the regulations were and some felt they were in an awkward position to request financial information,” said Mark Charendoff, the president of the Jewish Funder Network. “If they don’t have to provide these kinds of statements to the IRS, then they felt they had no right as funders to demand that kind of financial transparency.... Now they can say, ‘We are part of this group. This is what we are demanding.’ We are not taking our case to the government, we are hoping our community can rise to a higher level of understanding and we can effectively police ourselves.”

Synagogues compose the vast majority of Jewish religious institutions, and as last summer’s money-laundering scandal shows, they can run into sticky situations when they act as conduits for money to other charitable organizations.

But the guidelines also could end up focusing attention on transparency issues that have surrounded a number of Jewish institutions in the United States and abroad, and could put pressure on a variety of institutions to be more forthcoming, including rabbinical schools such as the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary, Chabad outposts, and overseas yeshivas.

“We are directing our energy toward any institution taking advantage of the religious exemption given by the IRS and not giving financials to investors and prospective investors,” Charendoff said.

JTA

This article was adapted from Jacob Berkman’s philanthropy blog, TheFundermentalist.com.

 
 

Will the Giving Pledge affect Jewish causes?

Jews on the Giving Pledge list: How have they given ‘Jewish’?

This is what we know so far about the Jewish giving of the Jews who have accepted the Giving Pledge, according to searches of their foundations’ 990 tax forms and media reports:

Michael Bloomberg: Already one of the world’s most generous givers, the mayor of New York City has been ramping up his charity in recent years. His foundation does not yet have 990 forms that show where his money is going, but according to a New York magazine profile he is a major donor to New York’s Jewish Museum.

“Being charitable is an important part of Jewish identity,” Joan Rosenbaum, director of the museum, told the magazine. “And Michael has been an extraordinarily generous supporter of the museum since 1988.”

Eli and Edythe Broad: The Broads, who have made their biggest splashes of late in education and by practically singlehandedly building the art scene in Los Angeles, seem to get a bad rap in the Jewish world. The foundation gives away from $60 million to $400 million in a year, but only about $1 million goes to overtly Jewish causes. Still, its 990 tax forms show a bevy of four- and five-figure gifts to Jewish causes, including the American Jewish Committee, the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Anti-Defamation League, and B’nai B’rith.

In 2006, the largest Jewish gift was a $100,000 grant to Friends of Israel Arts. The same year, the Broads gave more to the United Way than to the UJA-Federation of New York.

In 2002, the foundation gave away about $2 million of the $360 million it pledged to Jewish causes, but Broad had this to say about his Jewish giving: “If I had only a little to give away, my emphasis would be on Jewish and Israeli causes,” he told the L.A. Jewish Journal. “Once you get beyond several hundred thousand dollars, you become a better and more respected citizen if you also give to the Music Center and universities. If I would donate only a million dollars, I would split it between Jewish and general community projects.”

Barry Diller and Diane Von Furstenberg: The DDVF foundation does not yet have any 990 forms available, but the foundation’s website does list a number of Jewish organizations among its grantees: Temple Sholom in New Milford, Conn., The Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side of New York, American Friends of the College of Judea, the Anti-Defamation League, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Larry Ellison: In 2007, the founder of Oracle gave $500,000 to fortify Sderot while on a mission to Israel organized by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Joan and Irwin Jacobs: Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs is one of San Diego’s most generous men, but aside from propping up the San Diego Symphony with a more than $100 million gift last decade, the Jacobses have decided to give away most of their money through a donor-advised fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego. Last year, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, they gave the fund $24 million.

George Kaiser: The Tulsa billionaire, the son of refugees from Nazi Germany and worth about $9 billion right now, is one of the pillars of the Oklahoma Jewish community along with Lynn Schusterman. Kaiser, who gives millions to Tulsa causes — about $100 million in 2007 — also gives to Jewish causes. Among his 2007 gifts were five-figure amounts to B’nai B’rith, Cong. B’nai Emunah, the Illinois Holocaust Museum, and the Jewish Federation Foundation, according to his foundation’s 990 form for 2008.

Lorry Lokey: Lokey says he wants to die broke or close to it. Among his largest gifts was a $33 million pledge to the American Technion Society. He also has given heavily to the Leo Baeck School in Haifa, one of Israel’s two Reform Jewish schools. He also has given to Ben-Gurion University. Lokey told JTA last week in an interview that while he has already pledged away most of his $700 million fortune, he expects to make another few hundred million dollars before he dies, and the next $60 million or so would go to Israeli education.

Bernie and Millie Marcus: Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, spent some $200 million in building the Aquarium in Atlanta, where he is based. The aquarium and Marcus hosted an evening event at the annual conference of the Jewish Funders Network back in 2008, and the Marcus foundation also has a branch dedicated to Jewish giving. The foundation’s 990 tax form for 2008 shows only two gifts to Jewish causes — $4 million to the Jewish Federation of Atlanta and $250,000 to the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco.

Bernard and Barbro Osher: The Oshers have two foundations, the Bernard Osher Foundation, which gave away more than $100 million to general causes in 2007 — many of them $1 million-plus gifts to universities — and the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation, which is run by the Jewish Federation of San Francisco. The latter gave away $4 million in 2007 to an array of groups ranging from the Jewish Music Festival in San Francisco to the Osher JCC in Marin County. The largest gift that year was a $2 million capital grant paid in shares of Wachovia to Cong. Beth Sholom in San Francisco.

David M. Rubenstein: The billionaire behind the Carlyle group is perhaps best known for his recent mammoth gifts to the Lincoln Center in New York Cit, but he has given to Jewish causes as well. In 2008, for instance, he pledged $500,000 to help establish a $1.5 million professorship in Jewish studies at the University of North Carolina. More interestingly, in talking about his philanthropy, he has a knack for bringing up his Jewish identity.

Herb and Marion Sandler: The Sandlers, the philanthropists behind ProPublica, also seem to have gotten a bad rap in the Jewish world — perhaps because some do not appreciate their liberal views on Israel. A look at the 990 tax form shows that their foundation “made grants in support of the charitable, educational, scientific, or religious purposes of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, Marin, the Peninsula, and Sonoma Counties.” The foundation gave away $94.5 million in 2007, with $65,000 going to the New Israel Fund and $1.3 million to the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco.

Jeff Skoll: Those looking for overtly Jewish gifts in the philanthropic portfolio of this Jewish-born Canadian eBay executive are going to be disappointed. There’s nothing in the $28 million in giving listed in his 990 tax form that suggests any overtly Jewish giving. But Skoll has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations such as Common Ground that are working toward better understanding and peace in the Middle East.

Shelby White: Although we are not sure if White is Jewish, her late husband Leon Levy was, and the foundation of which she is the trustee has given seriously to Jewish causes. Most recently the foundation, which is heavily into archeology, history and the arts, gave $860,000 to the Center for Jewish History for an archival project. According to its latest 990 form, in 2007 the foundation gave $90,000 to Harvard’s Ashkelon archeological dig, $220,000 to the Center for Jewish History, $1.3 million to the Harvard Semitic Museum and $3.5 million to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Sanford and Joan Weill: Sanford Weill, the Citibank mogul, is most philanthropically famous for his $250 million gift to the Weill Cornell Medical Center. He was honored with the Center for Jewish History’s Emma Lazarus Award during the mid-1990s, which means he likely has given there, but according to a CJH source it has not been for quite some time.

(This article was adapted from JTA’s philanthropy blog, Fundermentalist.com.)

 
 

JFN’s Charendoff looks to the future

Let no one say that Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network, does not practice what he preaches. Nine years after taking the helm of the Jewish Funders Network, and just days after calling for term limits for Jewish communal leaders, Charendoff announced he would step down later this year.

“This is an issue I feel strongly about in the Jewish community,” he told The Jewish Standard earlier this week. “I feel there should be far more movement among CEOs, and organizations should have their own organic lives that are not tied to a particular CEO. We accomplished an enormous amount in nine years. It’s someone else’s turn to experiment in new directions and I think the organization deserves that. I think all organizations deserve that.”

Just as the president of the United States is limited to two four-year terms, Charendoff, an Englewood resident, would like to see a timeline imposed on Jewish communal leaders to accomplish their goals.

image
Shortly after publicly calling for term limits for Jewish communal leaders, Jewish Funders Network president Mark Charendoff announced he will step down from the organization in December after a nine-year stint. Courtesy Jewish Funders Network

“I don’t think enough Jewish organizations feel an urgency to achieve,” he said. “They feel an urgency to achieve their budgets, to show a certain amount of money coming in. If we have an expectation that the president of the United States can turn around the country in no more than eight years, it’s hubris to believe we can’t (also) hold ourselves to those standards.”

Executives can become burned out or lose touch with their changing constituencies, which is why he advocates bringing new blood into an organization after so many years, Charendoff said.

“We should all ask ourselves whether we continue to be the best person for the job, and whether the job continues to be the best for us,” he said.

He was quick to dismiss praise for the work he has done at JFN, instead offering praise to his colleagues.

“I was the orchestra leader,” he said. “I don’t think the orchestra leader makes a lot of music but gets everyone to play their instruments. The accomplishments were theirs.”

Charendoff’s position on term limits drew agreement from some long-time North Jersey community leaders, who also praised the JFN president for his role in Jewish life.

“It will certainly be a loss to the Jewish Funders Network,” said Howard Charish, executive vice president of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, “but I’m convinced that in any new role that Mark has, he will continue to make a contribution due to the fact that he’s an innovator and somebody who leads by example.”

Charish, who is retiring later this year after eight years at UJA-NNJ, agreed with Charendoff’s call for executive term limits, but added that a support system should be put into place for agencies and executives in transition.

“Although I would not say that it has to be a hard-and-fast rule, I do believe that handing the baton over should be a planned event and allow the organization new ideas and new leadership,” he said.

A regular change in leadership would help Jewish organizations prosper, said Angelica Berrie, president of the Teaneck-based Russell Berrie Foundation.

“The Jewish world is a world that can only benefit from innovation,” she said. “It’s important for us to be exposed to new things. You can’t continue to attract and inspire the next generation of donors with an executive who doesn’t grow with the times or speaks their language.”

Charendoff’s legacy, she said, is his ability to break down barriers and encourage collaboration between foundations and between Israel and America.

“The world of Jewish philanthropy is changing,” she said. “There’s a need for more collaboration, more alliances, and combining of resources. Mark led the way for that.”

 
 
 
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