Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's the Deal with Tikvah Layeled?

I am no "gevier" and thus have to be somewhat selective with my tzedakah money. I generally attempt at least a modicum of due diligence before supporting a charity. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to figure out who the primary recipients of a charity are. For example, many Jewish charities hide behind a "church" status and thus do not have to provide the IRS with 990 reporting information. In addition, strictly Israeli charities do not - of course - have to comply with any US reporting requirements.

Occasionally I have to go with my gut feeling, which is why I contribute to Hazon Yeshaya. But usually I refrain from giving to a charity that does not practice transparency. Nor will I give to one such as Chai Lifeline that has what I consider to be excessive salaries for their officers.

In my current pile of tzedakah envelopes is one for "Tikvah Layeled - The Foundation for Cerebral Palsy Children in Israel". I have contributed to them in the past and decided to update my information. Guidestar did have Form 990 information on them, and I found some curious details there. Here is the top of page 3 :

The first interesting thing is that their stated purpose is "Support of Jewish Religious Education". HUH? I thought I was supporting an organization to help children in Israel that had cerebral palsy! Now take a look at who they are distributing money to. Let's leave the major recipient aside for the moment.

It isn't easy to figure out who the other recipients are, but here is my best information:
Kahal Adas Yereim - Viener shul
Cong. Ner Baruch - congregation in Boro Park?
Gmach Ezer - gemach in Boro Park?
Cong. Kahal Torah Chaim - Viznitz yeshivah ($100,000!)
Tzedakah V'Chesed - too generic to determine
Cong. Givat Shaul - Bialer Rebbe's shul
Cong. Kehillah Yaakov (there's a shul in Cleveland Heights, but I doubt that this is the one)
EMI - not a clue
Kollel Shomrei Hachomos - Edah HaChareidis charity in Israel
The Cheder - too generic
It appears, then, that a substantial amount (almost 40%) goes to various chassidic shuls and yeshivot. Perhaps they give money to these institutions for the benefit of members with disabled children???

And what about the other 60% - $355,000 - that goes to Tikvah Layeled in Israel? There is only a handful of web articles regarding their work with cerebral palsy. The organization was started by Zvi Braitstein, a man with a child afflicted by CP, and the list of endorsers is not your typical hareidi list of rabbonim - it consists of physicians in both the US and Israel. But seeing as the US foundation is apparently not on the up and up with its recipients (that is, their mailing says nothing about these other groups, nor does it state that its goal is "Jewish education"), is it possible that the Israel organization is likewise diverting money to groups that ostensibly have nothing to do with cerebral palsy?

One other tidbit. They are apparently obfuscating their real address. While the mailing says "322 West 52nd Street, PO Box 1097", and a Google street view shows that this is the location of a post office in Manhattan. The 990 form, however, has an address in Boro Park. On it, Zvi Braitstein is listed as a director as "Rabbi Tzvi Braitstein". (At least it says that he - and the other directors - get $0 salary!)

I will be more than happy to post a followup that says that my suspicions are unfounded (as an aside, no one took me up on my similar offer regarding Chai Lifeline!) I'd like to be dan l'kaf zechus, but without going into the sordid details, we all know that there is good reason for cynicism these days.

In the meantime, Tikvah Layeled is on my S*** list!


arnie draiman said...

thank you for this. this is what i do for a living and it is nice to see others who care as well. i can give you a long run down on many places, mostly in israel...

(and ask me about one of the ones who mentioned above - send me an email - soochaz @

arnie draiman

Anonymous said...

The officers take their salaries in cash returns from those institutions?
BTW, Kehillos Kaakov is Pupa, I think.

Frum Heretic said...

I doubt it. The officers section claims zero dollars as their salary, so it seems like institutions - not individuals - are the beneficiaries.

Frum Heretic said...

(On second thought, you may be correct, and this could be a way of hiding their compensation.)

Anonymous said...

The Cheder is a Brooklyn yeshiva style elementary school, maybe also a high school.

Anonymous said...

Cong. Ner Boruch is a synanagogue in Boro Park on 15th Avenue

Anonymous said...

Cong. Kahal Toras Chaim is the name of the Institutions associated with the Viznitzer Chassidim

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this information!
I too am inundated and have become more careful about giving to places I know nothing about.
If I may ask a related question: I get multiple letters where the return envelopes are addressed directly to real Rabbis whom I would trust (R' Reuven Feinstein or Rav Matisyahu Solomon for example) - I'm not quite sure what to make of it as if the aforementioned rabbis were to go through all the mail they get through these guises.... they would have little or no time to study torah.... however, if the letters go directly to their address - I would assume it gives some kind of credibility - any thoughts?

Frum Heretic said...

Guess it depends on the type of organizations you feel an affinity to. I'll send money to institutions in Israel that focus on children (medical problems, poverty, etc), but no longer respond to yeshivot or hachnassat kallah mailings. The latter irk me in particular even though there are certainly needy folks. Too many perpetuate a cycle of dependency among people who have a philosophical objection to working for a living.

I now mostly focus on local giving, such as both Jewish and non-Jewish food banks in the area. Plus some international organizations like Doctors Without Borders that have passed my personal litmus test

Also, many rabbonim are easily contacted and can be asked directly regarding tzedakah questions.

The name on a letter is meaningless to me. I wonder which rabbonim were on Kupat Hair letters, one of the biggest scams around?

Anonymous said...

Or, which rabbanim were not on kupat ha'ir - which I didn't realize is a scam - really?

Anonymous said...

I am also flooded with requests. I try to research names since many of them are often pseudonyms for the same organization. When I went on Charity Navigator I could find nothing for Tikvah Layeled or for the Foundation for Cerebral Palsey Children in Israel. Yet, I wanted to help if they were legitimate. So I went on line and found this posting . I am grateful for the research of others!!

RonB said...

My wife and I went to R. Aaron Leib Schteinman of Hupat H'air, for a blessing. He is real. He lives in poverty too.

kt said...

Does anyone know anything about Mesamche Lev?

Anonymous said...

Thank You for posting this.
I was going to give tzduka to Tikva.
I am glad you poted your warning.
My income is below the povery level and I want to give my money to an organization that is "on the leval."

Be well, Moshe
Oak Park, Michigan

Frum Heretic said...

Moshe - don't know if you'll see this, but please consider worthwhile local charities such as JARC & Yad Ezra.

Anonymous said...

A grosse danke...I just chucked my Tikvah envelope and am perusing them all very carefully. Anyone have any suggestions for "real tzedakah?"

Anonymous said...

Man, that brought back memories of when I volunteered in Hazon yeshaya (the soup kitchen).

I liked that place. Although some of the stuff I saw there was depressing... (some people coming to pick up food for their family had containers. But some took home soup in double layered shopping bags)) Still, saw lots of good people working there.

(totally unrelated to your actual point, I know.)