CEO of U.S. Friends of IDF Rakes in $2.7m Over Six Years, All From Donations

Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon paid substantially more than heads of other Jewish fund-raising groups in Israel or U.S.

FIDF CEO Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon (left) at an organization event in February, 2013.
Jeff Ellis

The former chief executive officer of the Friends of the IDF in the United States earned $2.7 million in less than six years, all of it coming out of donations collected by the organization, according to a review conducted by Haaretz.

Friends of the IDF will hold its annual gala at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York on Tuesday night under the slogan “Standing together, serving each other.”

The annual gala usually brings in tens of millions of dollars. While a major portion of the money does eventually reach Israel and benefit Israel Defense Forces soldiers, one of the main beneficiaries in recent years has been the person heading the organization. Until 2014, that person was Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon.

A review by Haaretz has revealed that former CEO Gershon’s salary amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Of the $72 million in donations collected by FIDF in 2013, according to a report by the organization, Gershon’s salary that year reached $700,000, roughly one dollar for every hundred that were donated.

In addition to the $700,00 to Gershon, almost $42 million of the money collected in 2013 was distributed as grants. $9 million went to salaries and associated expenses and $9.5 million went to other expenses. Almost $5 million went to Nefesh B’Nefesh, a non-profit group which encourages immigration to Israel.

Gershon, a former commander of the IDF Home Command, took over as CEO of the FIDF U.S. in 2008 and served until 2014, when he was replaced by Maj. Gen. (res.) Meir Klifi. The Haaretz review revealed that the costs of employing Gershon up to 2013 (the last year for which figures are available) exceeded $2.7 million. They included his annual salary, which grew by tens of thousands of dollars a year, annual bonuses amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars and generous reimbursements for expenses.

When Gershon began in 2008, his annual salary amounted to $113,000. In 2009 his total compensation (including salary, bonus and other benefits) was $355,000; in 2010, it was $516,000; in 2011 $482,000; in 2012 $546,000; and in 2013 his compensation jumped to $699,000.

The employment costs of the FIDF CEO are high, particularly in view of the extra bonuses and expense reimbursements. For the sake of comparison, the annual 2014 salary of the CEO of the Vaad Lemaan Hachayal (Association for the Wellbeing of Soldiers) in Israel was 460,000 shekels ($115,000.) Gershon made six times that amount that year. A major general in the IDF makes 60,000 shekels a month, or 720,000 a year ($180,000).

Even in comparison to American salaries the costs of employing the former CEO are considered very high. Judging by a list of the highest earners in non-profit Jewish organizations in the U.S. in 2014, published by the Jewish daily The Forward, salaries ranged from $880,000, paid to the president of Brandeis University, to $93,000, paid to the CEO of the Israeli-American Council.

The CEO of Ort America, an organization which collects $13.7 million a year in donations, earned $226,000 in 2014, as well as being reimbursed $14,000 for expenses. The CEO of Friends of Magen David Adom, an organization that collected close to $40 million in 2014, was paid $337,000 in salary and $48,000 in reimbursements.

The president of Taglit (Birthright-Israel), an organization with revenues of $74 million in 2013, had a salary of $505,000, on top of $70,000 in reimbursements. The CEO of the Friends of the Weizmann Institute, a group which raised $106 million in 2013, made $465,000 that year, with another $82,000 paid as reimbursement for expenses. Incidentally, the salary of the U.S. Vice-President is $230,000 a year.

Friends of the IDF did not provide a response to this article.