Long Island Jewish American mogul and millionaire financier Morris Talansky, who is suspected of bribing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is described by acquaintances as a man who keeps his business affairs out of the spotlight.
Although he is a known fund-raiser for and contributor to Jewish causes in the United States and Israel, nobody seems to know how he made his money. Moreover, though he has participated in dozens of public events, his photograph cannot be found on the Internet.
"He tries not to attract attention and to stay in the shadows," New York rabbis and businesspeople said of Talansky, 77, an Orthodox Jew.
After graduating from Yeshiva University in 1954, he was ordained a rabbi, but went on to study law at a New York law school and then went into business. Years later, he served on Yeshiva University's board of trustees.
Talansky and his first wife, Marion, have three children: Yitzhak (Alan), a dentist and lecturer at Jerusalem's Machon Lev college; Bracha Tova (Barbara), a psychologist living in Ra'anana; and Ruth, an architect living in the U.S.
In 1996, after 40 years of marriage, the couple separated in what associates call "an ugly divorce." Earlier, in 1990, Marion moved alone to Israel. "I wanted to immigrate years ago, but my husband didn't want to. Finally, I decided enough already and came," Marion, who lives in Jerusalem today, told Haaretz.
She added that during her marriage to Talansky, she met Olmert and his office manager, Shula Zaken.
Talansky now lives with his second wife, Helen, in Woodsburgh, Long Island. He also has an apartment in the Wolfson Towers - a modern high-rise luxury apartment complex overlooking the Knesset and government ministries.
Talansky makes some of his money by fundraising and consulting for Israeli and Jewish charity organizations. Among other things, he held a key post in the New Jerusalem Fund's U.S. office; in the past, he also raised money for the ORT network.
However, Talansky made his name largely due to the funds he raised as executive director of the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center, which solicits overseas donations for the Jerusalem hospital. A Jewish activist in Brooklyn said Talansky was "the main New York activist for Shaare Zedek. In his heyday, he raised millions of dollars for the hospital."
"He didn't bother with small contributions, he went for the big ones," the activist added.
It was during this period that Talansky met Olmert, who, during his 10-year term as mayor of Jerusalem, was frequently featured at Shaare Zedek dinners and other fundraising events sponsored by the medical center.
Professor Yonatan Halevy, Shaare Zedek's director, said Talansky stopped working for the hospital in 1997. Sources in American Friends of Shaare Zedek confirmed this. However, American tax records indicate that Talansky received $90,000 from American Friends of Shaare Zedek for consulting work in 2004 and 2005.
Talansky also owns a small company in the U.S. called Trans Global Resources, which he founded in April 1998. He is registered as sole shareholder and director of the company, which provides investment consulting and business services. It also deals in real estate investments.
Since the 1980s, the American tax records show, Talansky has contributed to several candidates in local and national elections, including presidential candidates. Among others, he supported George Bush and Rudy Guiliani. He mostly donated sums of $1,000.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now