T’ruah is making common cause with the anti-Israel “Squad”’s efforts to persuade the IRS to remove the tax-exemption status from these charities.
By Morton A. Klein and Elizabeth A. Berney, Esq.
(MAY 3, 2022 / JNS) Israel has been suffering rising terror attacks from its enemies on multiple fronts these past few weeks. Palestinian Arab and Bedouin Islamist terrorists murdered 15 innocent Jews and others in cold blood. The Palestinian Authority (PA), Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and ISIS are inciting more terror with calls to “escalate confrontation with the Israeli occupation and force it to retreat from Palestinian soil.” Hamas is “celebrating” Ramadan by firing rockets from Gaza into southern Israel. Palestinian Arab factions are firing rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel. Palestinian Arabs vandalized and set fire to Joseph’s Tomb, a sacred Jewish religious site. Arab rioters are throwing rocks, pipes and fireworks at Jewish worshipers and police at the Western Wall and Temple Mount.
Outrageously, compounding this suffering, nineteen rabbis of the far-left “T’ruah” organization are attacking pro-Israel Jewish charities that help Israeli families victimized by Palestinian Arab terror. The 19 T’ruah rabbis just went public with their defamatory June 2021 letter demanding that the New York Jewish Communal Fund should stop allowing grants to the humanitarian Central Fund of Israel (CFI). Stopping such grants would harm the 350 wonderful charities funded by CFI.
T’ruah has actually been waging war against pro-Israel charities for years, including by filing complaints demanding revocation of the tax-exempt status of pro-Israel Jewish charities (including CFI).
T’ruah’s rabbis are thus making common cause with the anti-Israel squad’s efforts to persuade the IRS to remove pro-Israel charities’ tax exemption (which would constitute illegal viewpoint discrimination). In July 2021, seven notorious Israel-hating Democratic Congressional squad members – Rashida Tlaib (MI), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Cori Bush (MO), André Carson (IN), Mark Pocan (WI), Ayanna Pressley (MA) and Betty McCollum (MN) – wrote to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen demanding revocation of the tax exempt status of pro-Israel Jewish charities that provide humanitarian aid, if some of the aid helps Jews in the lawful, historic Jewish homelands of Judea/Samaria and Jerusalem. The anti-Israel squad’s letter specifically targeted CFI and American Friends of Beit El Yeshiva (previously headed by former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman).
T’ruah’s and the Squad’s harassment and malicious defamation of pro-Israel Jewish charities is an utter outrage. It is also disappointing that JTA published a one-sided article repeating defamatory claims in T’ruah’s letter.
We investigated publicly available information and spoke with CFI’s president, to provide readers with the following facts:
CFI’s Important Humanitarian Work:
The Central Fund of Israel’s over 350 grantees include: groups dedicated to caring for special needs persons; special needs children’s scholarships; nutrition; poverty relief; combating ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease); battered women shelters and assistance; other women’s assistance; helping Ethiopians and other vulnerable groups obtain jobs; providing facts about Israel; helping bereaved mothers, fathers, widows, orphans and siblings who have lost loved ones to terror and other tragedies to rebuild their lives and create meaning out of suffering; a chicken fund to provide chickens to the needy; a news agency which provides accurate information; aid for Israeli expellees from Gush Katif (in Gaza) who are still suffering; funds for purchasing land; security; medical organizations; humanitarian needs of soldiers; rabbinic training; and meals for the needy elderly.
All this is what the T’ruah’s rabbis would stop.
Perhaps as a result of T’ruah’s and the Squad’s harassing, defamatory complaints, CFI was subjected to IRS audits last year and previously. CFI passed the audits with flying colors.
T’ruah’s “Lehava,” “Hemla” and Flag March Fallacies:
The T’ruah letter’s primary (false) claims are that CFI funds a group called “Hemla,” that Hemla funnels money to a group called “Lehava,” and that “Every year on Jerusalem Day, Lehava and partners organize the Flag March, which . . . terrorizes Palestinians in East Jerusalem.”
But, in fact, CFI has never given a single penny to Lehava. Further, during the past six years, the only grant CFI made to Hemla was for a mere $650, back in 2017. That’s half the cost of an iPhone. CFI gave nothing to Hemla the year before (2016), or since then (2018-2022).
Incidentally, contrary to the 19 T’ruah rabbis’ ridiculous claim that Jerusalem Flag Marches are violent onslaughts of Lehava activists running through the streets “terrorizing Arabs,” the Jerusalem Flag Marches are primarily peaceful occasions, organized by other groups. The video of the Jerusalem Flag March shows Jewish mothers pushing their toddlers in strollers, klezmer and Mizrachi bands playing lively Israeli music, and 5,000 peaceful Jewish children, teens and others walking and dancing with the Israeli flag to celebrate the Jewish people’s eternal capital Jerusalem’s reunification, on Yom Yerushalayim. This celebrates the anniversary of the miraculous day when brave young Jews repelled the attacking Jordanian army; regained the Jewish people’s holiest sites, including the Temple Mount; and restored the Jewish people’s ability to live in Jerusalem and freely pray at the Western Wall without being shot by Jordanian snipers. The Jerusalem Flag Marches are much like the Celebrate Israel Parade in New York, organized by the New York Jewish Community Relations Council (“JCRC”), in which Jewish schoolchildren and groups walk down Fifth Avenue, singing and waving Israeli flags.
Palestinian Arabs are the ones who are guilty of real “terrorizing” – with actual violence – at Jerusalem Flag Marches. Last year, dozens of Palestinian Arabs assaulted and threw rocks at police officers providing security for the march, resulting in injuries and 17 Arabs being arrested. Kann radio reported that Palestinian Arabs also chanted “with fire and blood, we’ll liberate Palestine.” The 19 T’ruah rabbis’ letter ignores all this, and instead solely allege that Lehava activists chanted wrong statements. Of course, any statements that may have been shouted by Lehava activists are irrelevant to the Central Fund of Israel, which does not fund Lehava.
Rehashing Ancient History:
The 19 T’ruah rabbis’ letter then misleadingly and falsely complains about two organizations that CFI gave grants to about a decade ago, and three wonderful groups (out of the 350 wonderful groups) that CFI gives grants to now.
The last time CFI gave a grant to Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva was in 2014 – eight years ago. And the last time CFI gave a grant to Mishmeret Yesha was in 2012 – ten years ago.
Incidentally, Mishmeret Yesha does not “train and outfit vigilantes in the West Bank,” as the T’ruah letter falsely claims. Mishmeret Yesha provides first aid kits, bullet proof vests, and training to emergency first responders, who assist when Jewish families are attacked in their homes by invading Palestinian Arab terrorists. The training has saved Jewish lives, a very worthy cause. Have the 19 T’ruah rabbis forgotten the Fogel parents, children and baby brutally massacred by Arab terrorists who invaded the Fogel home on a Sabbath evening? Have T’ruah’s rabbis forgotten 13-year-old Israeli-American Hallel Yaffa Ariel, who was stabbed to death in her bed by an Arab terrorist? Why does T’ruah want to leave Israeli Jews defenseless, without first responder training?
The Three Actual CFI Grantees T’ruah Misleadingly Complains About:
(1) The first actual CFI-grantee that T’ruah complains about is Im Tirtzu, an important grass-roots Zionist educational organization. T’ruah absurdly accuses Im Tirtzu of “inciting against Israeli human rights leaders.” This appears to be a misleading reference to Im Tirtzu’s 2015 “Foreign Agents Report.” Im Tirtzu’s report, based on public information, describes how foreign agents masquerading as human rights groups defame Israel and the IDF around the world, promote anti-Jewish boycotts, and engage in anti-Israel lawfare. The actual situation is even worse. Reports by the Israeli government, NGO Monitor (summary) and American think tanks, etc., reveal that at least a dozen phony “human rights” groups are front groups for the PFLP, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas terror organizations.
(2) Second, T’ruah misleadingly asserts that a CFI grantee, the Israel Land Fund, “uses semi-legal or non-legal means to acquire Palestinian property.” There is nothing illegal about buying “Palestinian” property under Israeli law. T’ruah is really demanding that the Israel Land Fund should abide by the Palestinian Authority’s immoral laws which make Arab land sales to Jews a crime punishable by death.
(3) The third CFI grantee T’ruah complains about is Honenu, which is a legitimate legal aid group that defends Jews accused of offenses in Israeli courts. At one point, Honenu also ran a small gemach / gemilat chesed (charity fund), from which some impoverished families of accused Jews obtained small amounts of assistance. At CFI’s request, Honenu discontinued the gemach seven years ago, back in 2015. Yet T’ruah’s 19 rabbis would deny accused poor Jews legal aid today.
In sum, T’ruah’s letter is a baseless witch hunt that repeatedly displays a malicious disregard for the truth. It’s time for T’ruah to stop trying to de-platform and harm hundreds of genuine Jewish charities that do wonderful humanitarian work in Israel. Especially at this time, all Jews should be helping one another.
Addendum: T’ruah’s Own Questionable Donors:
Perhaps T’ruah is the group that should be investigated.
T’ruah’s 2019 tax information filing reveals that:
- T’ruah’s fourth largest donor, the Germanacos Foundation, also funds Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) – a vicious anti-Israel BDS organization, whose mission is to drive a wedge between Americans and Israel, and which advocates for the PFLP terrorist-group’s front groups, including Addameer. The Foundation’s president, Anne Germanacos, sits on T’ruah’s board of directors, and considers T’ruah to be her major board.
- T’ruah’s largest donor, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, also funds other groups that demonize Israel, including B’tselem, NIF; Tides, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, One Voice; and J Street. The Nathan Cummings Foundation also provided major funding for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Center on Extremism’s recent report, which attempted to remove the tax exempt status and funding platforms of three strong pro-Israel groups, including the Christian Zionist organization Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN). We sense a pattern here.
- The American Federation of Teachers AFL-CIO (“The AFT”) is tied as T’ruah’s fourth largest donor. Why is teachers’ union money funding T’ruah, which is engaged in harming Jewish pro-Israel charities? Is this a legitimate or sane use of teachers’ union funds? Does this have anything to do with the fact that AFT President Rhonda “Randi” Weingarten is married to T’ruah Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum – one of the 19 signers of the T’ruah letter? Kleinbaum is a radical Israel-basher. Dozens of prominent members quit Kleinbaum’s LGBT congregation because of Kleinbaum’s obscene anti-Israel antics, including mourning and reading the names of Hamas terrorists during synagogue services.
Morton A. Klein is the National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Elizabeth (Liz) A. Berney, Esq. is ZOA’s Director of Research and Special Projects.
This article was originally published in JNS and can be viewed here.