Comment: Let the donor beware

"No more than 20% of the money ostensibly collected for terror victims actually ends up in their hands," a reputable organization says.

February 25, 2011 03:40
2 minute read.
Man wearing a hat for Gilad Schalit.

58_Free Gilad hat. (photo credit: Associated Press)

The revelations coming out of the Schalit camp, alleging fraud in one of the fund-raising campaigns on behalf of the kidnapped soldier, are shocking but, alas, not all that surprising.

While we would like to believe that the entire country is united behind Gilad’s plight and doing its utmost to secure his release, the notion that there are unscrupulous individuals out there looking to take advantage of the situation for their own benefit is a sad but sobering fact of life. As long as there is money to be made, there will always be charlatans who play and prey on the misfortunes of others to line their own greedy pockets.

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Police to investigate suspected fraud in Schalit campaign

I learned this bitter lesson soon after our son Ari was killed in battle (against Hamas terrorists in Nablus in 2002). I discovered that an organization in the States was selling bracelets with Ari’s name and date of death inscribed on them, and another was marketing badges with his picture, despite never having spoken to our family, let alone received our permission.

But this was just the tip of the iceberg.

I soon found that there were dozens – perhaps hundreds – of individuals and groups collecting money all over the world, supposedly on behalf of victims of terror and fallen soldiers, with the money rarely going to the supposed recipients. A brief glance at Jewish papers or a surf of the Web reveals an obscene glut of such projects.

In some instances, no money is ever dispersed. In other cases, where the organizers are more clever, a portion of the monies collected are given out – usually with much fanfare – to selected bereaved families, while the rest of the funds disappear into the black hole of burglary or bureaucracy.

I was told by the head of one particular organization, which I believe to be reputable, that no more than 20 percent of the money ostensibly collected for terror victims actually ends up in their hands.

Even government and Jewish communal institutions, here and abroad, are not always guiltless. With huge budgets to maintain, they are in constant, desperate need of popular causes to tug at the heartstrings of donors and loosen their wallets.

With Soviet and Ethiopian Jewry safely rescued, and relative quiet reigning in Sderot, the appeal to help families of terror victims and soldiers – chief among them Gilad Schalit – can be a very tempting target.

This is not to say that every organization out there is dishonest.

But it is wise to alert the people that this danger does indeed exist, and that one should check and triple-check before giving hard-earned funds to connivers and con men, no matter how poignant their pitch or compelling their cause. For as long as there is money involved, the possibility of malfeasance cannot be ruled out.

A hassidic parable sums it up best: Glass is clear, allowing us to see the world as it truly exists. But the moment someone places silver behind the glass, all he can see is himself.

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana.

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