Bank Leumi agrees to pay NIS 130m. to Holocaust victims

Despite high hopes, restitution organization agrees to ‘cut our losses’; money will go to heirs of victims, projects to help survivors.

By NADAV SHEMER
March 28, 2011 00:57
3 minute read.
bank leumi 248 88 aj

bank leumi 248 88 aj. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

Bank Leumi and Hashava – The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets ended months of arbitration by signing an agreement in which the bank will pay the company NIS 130.8 million, the two sides announced Sunday.

The money will go to heirs of Holocaust victims and toward projects that help Israeli Holocaust survivors – more than a quarter of whom live under the poverty line, according to government estimates.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


RELATED:
US bill allows Holocaust survivors to sue for claims
Project launched to identify property confiscated by Nazis

The total includes NIS 20 million, re-evaluated to NIS 25.8 million, already paid by the bank to Hashava in 2007. In exchange, Hashava has withdrawn all claims against Bank Leumi.

Leumi and Hashava agreed in February 2010 to enter talks under the mediation of Professor Omri Yadlin of Tel Aviv University and former High Court justices Tova Strassberg-Cohen and Ruth Elias-Sternberg.

Hashava had previously filed an NIS 305 million lawsuit against Leumi in the Jerusalem District Court in June 2009, based on their estimate that there were thousands of accounts at the bank that belong to Holocaust victims.

Hashava, a private corporation established in 2006 whose shares are held by the state, has also demanded that the Mizrahi Tefahot and Mercantile banks return the Holocaust victims’ money that they currently hold in trust. The company has stated in the past that it would wait until the end of its arbitration with Leumi before deciding whether to take any action, while the two banks have until now denied liability. An inventory on Hashava’s website lists more than 60,000 mostly unclaimed assets in Israel that belonged to Holocaust victims, most of them in real estate, but many at these banks and other institutions.

JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:


Former MK Colette Avital, who initiated the creation of the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee that led to Hashava’s establishment and today serves on its board of directors, told The Jerusalem Post that the compromise fell short of what the company had originally wanted, but that it agreed to enter mediation with Leumi after realizing that if it waited for a court verdict, by then “there would not be anybody to return the money to.”

“When we see that we are banging our heads against the wall, and time keeps moving and people keep aging and waiting many years for the money, in the end we need to settle everything and just cut our losses,” she said.

Avital said she understood the importance of the issue after returning from New York, where, in her role as Israeli consulgeneral during the mid-1990s, she had been active in the fight to free Holocaust victims’ assets being held in Swiss banks, only to find that Israeli banks were also suspected of holding onto victims’ assets.

“I said to myself, ‘It can’t be that we are fighting against Swiss banks and yet we in Israel are almost guilty of the same thing, that we are not willing to return the money,’” Avital said.

Dan Waldman, the executive director of Amcha, an organization that provides mental health support to Holocaust survivors in Israel with the help of Hashava funding, also welcomed the news.

“For what Amcha does, it [the agreement with Leumi] is certainly not too late, if we can make things easier for the mental health of Holocaust survivors and improve their lives,” he said.

Waldman said that Hashava had funded his organization for the past three years, which helped them to run a project that has so far provided 10,000 treatment sessions to survivors confined to their own homes. He said that such treatment was virtually unattainable to those who were not part of the project.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Riot
August 31, 2014
Rioting resumes throughout east Jerusalem Saturday night

By DANIEL K. EISENBUD