Registrar looking into soup kitchen complaints

Investigation follows complaints about Jerusalem-based humanitarian aid network Hazon Yeshaya.

soup kitchen 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
soup kitchen 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Registrar of Nonprofit Organizations is reviewing complaints it received in recent weeks about the operations of Jerusalem-based humanitarian aid network Hazon Yeshaya, a charity that provides thousands of hot meals each day to people in need.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry, which oversees the registrar, a department in the Corporations Authority, refused to divulge who had made the complaints or exactly what those complaints were but said it would likely be lengthy process. If the complaints prove to be valid, the organization’s status as a recognized charity could be revoked.
Hazon Yeshaya, which has received up to $20 million over the past two years from international donors, has come under scrutiny in recent months from supporters around the world.
Last October, Friends of Hazon Yeshaya groups in the UK and Canada started to raise suspicions over the scope of the charity’s activities in Israel and, subsequently, supporting branches in Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa and France suspended their activities.
Amiram Bogot, a lawyer for the charity, said Thursday there was no investigation by the Registrar of Nonprofit Organizations or by any other official body.
Two weeks ago, Hazon Yeshaya released to the media the results of an internal audit carried out by a registered Jerusalem-based CPA that claimed to account for all of the charity’s income and expenditures. At that time, Hazon Yeshaya’s founder and director Rabbi Abraham Israel announced that the audit was a response to suspicions raised about the charity’s operations.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post last month, Israel admitted that due to a drop in donations over the past year he has been forced to reduce the scope of the charity’s activities.
While in the past his soup kitchens, which are based in Jerusalem, Rishon Lezion and Ashkelon, produced around 14,000 meals a day to those in need, more recently its output has sunk to 9,000 and now, he said, it is closer to 5,000.
The audit showed that Hazon Yeshaya also funds vocational training courses, and special classes training religious court employees, as well as providing free dental treatments, medical kits for soldiers, and food, transport and other services for kindergartens and schools for children in need.
Former supporters of the charity, however, have since expressed surprise that the audit showed how Hazon Yeshaya is providing financial support to several kollels, Jewish learning institutions for married men, and yeshivas in Jerusalem, as well as offering financial aid to families and individuals in need, including religious brides and grooms.
They said the audit failed to answer all of their questions about the charity’s work.
Suspicions about Hazon Yeshaya were first raised this past summer when the charity’s Canadian Friends requested Israel provide it with more details about food distribution and other services. When Israel’s response was less than sufficient, the group sent a charity investigator to Israel and based on his findings decided to suspend its work with Hazon Yeshaya, raising alarm among other groups worldwide.
A few months later, with the support of the other international funders, the Canadian group hired a team of private investigators, including ex- Mossad agents. This team has apparently filed a 100-page report with vast accusations against Hazon Yeshaya although no information has been made public.