I opened my Yahoo! Mail account, and once more, there it was at the top of my page: “Help Bless Impoverished Jews With Your Gift Now. Bless Israel and suffering Jews in need . . .” This has been appearing a lot lately. Was it because I haven’t purged my browser’s cookies in ages? I remember seeing this site pop up in June of 2022 as well: the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).
A year ago I saw a photo of Bronya on their main page, a little old lady who was being caringly embraced by the head of the IFCJ. She appeared quite elderly, and since Jewish women tend to age quite gracefully (much unlike their men), I guessed she was there when Moses parted the Red Sea. More seriously, I’d be happy to offer Bronya a hug, too, and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy her a meal if she’s hungry. I know what some cynics will say, but by all indications she seems to be an upstanding lady.
I see that the IFCJ does lots of important work. Further down the page was the lead for Fanya’s story: “This precious Jewish woman survived the Holocaust in Ukraine and has at last found a family in Israel with The Fellowship.” I’m sincerely glad to hear it all worked out for her. The last thing she needed to deal with was another damn war, especially at her age. For Ukrainian civilians trying to bug out of there, the situation has been complicated by hordes of Africans clogging up the transit system, managing to elbow their way ahead of real Ukrainians. Luckily for Fanya, now she can enjoy her golden years in her sunny Urheimat. After praying “next year in Jerusalem” so many times, now it’s a done deal!
I thought of sending a contribution at the time. No, I’m not an Evangelical, as I suppose many and perhaps most of their donors might be. Neither am I awestruck by God’s chosen people. They’re really just another ethnic group, and the idea that they have unconditional divine favor is merely self-serving mythology. (Scripture does describe them as a light unto the nations. Indeed, that’s exactly what they could be doing, but some of them will have to try a little harder to make that light shine!) If I really needed a theological reason, the Book of Mormon does say quite adamantly not to turn away from those in need. But I’m not out to pile up treasures in heaven. Obviously this isn’t my usual cause, but I do care about little old ladies, and that transcends boundaries of ideology and religion.
Just one problem
Just to be on the safe side, I looked up the IFCJ on Charity Navigator. As of 2021, which was the only data available to me at the time, they received a rating of 82.49% overall, or three out of four stars. Pretty good, then. The executives’ pay stands out, however, as is listed in the “Salary of Key Persons” section. I’m not sure what the cost of living was in Chicago that year, but $521,179 seems like quite a lot of bread for someone running a charity. I’d call that a questionable amount of swag even for the CEO of a for-profit corporation. A salary of a quarter-million dollars makes for a sumptuous lifestyle as it is.
There’s a roughly equivalent Mormon institution called the Relief Society. Those fine ladies have done remarkable work since the 1840s. Back in the day, they assisted emigrants to Utah who were making the perilous crossing over the Great Plains, and lately continue to do great deeds to help the community. It’s an all-volunteer organization. Although its top three officers are equivalent to General Authorities, and rightly receive metric tons of prestige, even they don’t get paid. Now, let’s imagine that one of the Relief Society’s highest officers raked in half a million simoleons for the position. If such a thing came to light, surely a mushroom cloud would unfold over Salt Lake City.
If you look up the IFCJ on Charity Navigator now, the Salary of Key Persons information shows “No Data Available,” stating that there is “None Reported.” I’m guessing that means that the executives’ salaries still haven’t come out of orbit; otherwise, they’d probably be happy to report it. Apparently this is a sensitive subject. According to the Washington Post, the IFCJ employed the services of a reputation management company called Eliminalia. (Why does that name remind me of Agent Smith in The Matrix?) The WaPo story states that Eliminalia persuaded WordPress to delete posts that were critical of the salary of the IFCJ’s head honcho. Moreover:
Eliminalia had been hired that October and paid 6,000 euros, or about $6,400, to target stories about the charity’s one-time president and chief executive, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and his daughter, Yael Eckstein, who was also a top executive, the records show.
The IFCJ, which provides aid to impoverished Jews in Israel and other countries, raised more than $150 million in 2019 alone and paid the two executives a combined $4 million that year, its tax filings show. Rabbi Eckstein, identified in the internal records as Eliminalia’s client, died that year, and his daughter assumed his leadership positions.
The IFCJ’s current CEO disputed this story, and WaPo inserted a statement from them into their article to the effect that anything that happened was carried out by her late father in a private capacity:
“The Fellowship has never engaged Eliminalia or any firm that engages in unethical practices, nor has its CEO Yael Eckstein,” it said. “If there is a record of Rabbi Eckstein making such payment over five years ago, it was a personal decision made completely independent of The Fellowship. The Fellowship adheres to the highest ethical standards in all our work, which is supported by our continuing high marks as a trusted charity.”
Still, the story made ripples elsewhere. From deep in the heart of the 51st state itself, the Jerusalem Post also covered the story with an article entitled “Criticism of prominent rabbi’s salary may have been erased from the internet.” Ouch!
Publicly accessible tax documents show Eckstein’s total compensation in 2018 was more than $700,000, and that his daughter Yael Eckstein, who then served as executive vice president, earned more than $400,000. In 2019, the year the elder Eckstein died, his total compensation jumped to roughly $3 million, which an IFCJ spokesperson, Shavit Greenberg, said was due to a death benefit paid out to his widow. The nonprofit’s revenue in both years exceeded $100 million. A Haaretz article published in 2017 also questioned the size of Yechiel Eckstein’s salary.
I’d still be quite happy to buy lunch for Bronya, if we were ever to meet. If I don’t hear from her, though, maybe the IFCJ’s head honcho can take her out for a sandwich. It looks like they know each other already. Surely Bronya is in good hands, then. I’ll save my dough to keep buying grub for the homeless people I see so often these days.
The obvious occurs to me: The United States sends Israel billions of dollars in foreign aid annually. Can’t part of that go toward resettling their brethren from abroad? If a private organization has to pick up the slack, then why is it necessary for this foundation to advertise online, where it might be seen by a fascist having a soft-hearted moment? I hate to see the elderly suffering, whatever their background may be. In this case, these are the misfortunate among what is likely the world’s wealthiest and most influential ethnic group per capita. Why aren’t their more fortunate brethren able to take care of them? It seems odd that so much falls on Evangelical neocons with a special affection for our 51st state.
I have one such individual in mind who certainly can make a difference: George Soros. With the kind of swag he got from crashing economies around the world, he could cover the $100 million annual budget of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews singlehandedly and still not run out of cash during his lifetime. Let’s face it: He surely can’t have that much longer to go. Georgie, don’t you want to be remembered for helping your misfortunate brethren rather than for being a vulture capitalist? Besides, we know what you were up to in the 1940s; you admitted it yourself. It’s high time to make restitution to your community. Mr. Soros, before your circulatory system shuts down from advanced age, I challenge you to have a heart for once.
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 These African pests, who often have stolen or fake IDs, made themselves notorious for trying to elbow their way to the front of the lines for buses and passenger trains headed west. This comes at the expense of those actual Ukrainians who were trying to flee the Russian invasion. What the hell was all this flotsam doing in Ukraine anyway, and who let them in? From what I’ve seen in Europe, African immigrants are quite often grifters and welfare entrepreneurs — something they have in common with most other Asylbewerber — but Ukraine is hardly the ideal gravy train for such rackets. They were UNFORTUNATELY allowed to go to other locales in Europe rather than being sent back to where they belong.
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