Dec 26, 2008 4:41 pm


Lucette Lagnado looks at the consequences of Madoff fund's collapse and asks When the big Spenders fail, who will save Jewish Charity?

Personally, she reports she would like to see Jewish charities returning to the good old days when they relied on, pushkes (charity boxes), i.e., community giving. But"Jewish leaders" would rather not. Why? because according to Jack Wertheimer, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York,"Jewish organizational life has become much more expensive -- nickels, dimes and pushkes aren't going to do it."

Perhaps, but I believe that these"leaders" would rather not see their spending goals controlled by community wishes. Indeed, Wertheimer, hints as much.

Once upon a time, he recalls, particularly during periods when Israel was at war, grass-roots support was overwhelming:"People would line up outside Federations with their money -- they came out of the woodwork."

If they no longer do so, it is because money given to Federations no longer goes to Jerusalem or to the type of Jewish caused Lagato's father (orphanages, trade schools, even a bride's fund)favored. They go, instead, to NGO type pet projects supported by"Jewish leaders" though not necessarily by the community they claim to represent.

This state of affairs is hardly limited to Jewish charities and is encouraged by the current tax system which encourages even moderately wealthy individuals to avoid taxation by creating non profit charitable foundations. Some of these foundations do good; others do not. Together they have come to constitute a powerful plutocratic challenge to national governments, be they democracies or tyrannies. Do not expect either the plutocrats, nor those who control their charitable foundations, to give it up without a fight.

You do not believe me? Read Daniel Hisch's letter arguing that the tax payers help mitigate donor losses so that they can renew their charitable giving. But, then, big spenders never lack in either sophistry or chutzpah.

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Thomas Barton, J.D. - 12/26/2008

It is undeniable and refreshing to see an open challenge to the U.S. over-enthusiasm for the charitable NGO's. Particularly those driven by the cult of personality of celebrity. Can you give any quantifiable dimension to the depth of this plutocratic challenge ? Is this the substance of Daniel Hisch and others that the challenge has subsumed the altruistic good ?