The Jewish Agency, the Claims Conference and Transparency

Most of our readers are likely familiar with the $57 million fraud perpetuated on the Claims Conference and the subsequent combination of plea bargains and guilty verdicts handed down in U.S. courts. Many also know that two Claims Conference Board members, Natan Sharansky and Ronald Lauder, have been outspoken in their call for an independent probe to investigate allegations against senior executives (and board members) of the Claims Conference.

In Sharansky’s case, this was particularly courageous, as The Jewish Agency was the recipient in 2012 of $1.5 million in allocations from the Claims Conference and the estimate for 2013 is allocations totaling $1.7 million. As we all know, antagonizing a donor is not the best way to secure future funding.

The problem though, is both of these individuals were somewhat disingenuous in their calls for an independent probe. As I shared at the time with the respected editor of another publication, my guess was both Sharansky and Lauder would act in the same way (an internal investigation only) if any financial mismanagement was discovered in their own organizations.

I guess now we’ll see.

Word on the street in Jerusalem is that a senior, and long-time, professional of a major Jewish Agency subsidiary company was recently terminated due to allegations of requesting and accepting kick-backs from vendors. Whatever “investigation” was conducted, it was only  handled internally. eJP understands that a decision was made by management not to involve the Israel Police in the investigation.

One can only wonder why. One can also wonder who [above the former employee] will Sharansky hold accountable for apparently allowing this alleged kickback situation to continue undiscovered? After all, this is what he is demanding at the Claims Conference. At present, we are unaware if there was a “smoking gun” letter making others aware of these allegations years ago, but that’s besides the point. The alleged kickbacks occurred on a senior manager’s watch and the Agency’s management needs to accept responsibility. An independent investigation (perhaps conducted by the Israel Police) is necessary.

The question is, will it happen?