NGO Raises Thousands for Sick Boy, but Transfers Only Fraction

Five-year-old cancer patient's family expected to see more than 13,000 shekels after ultra-Orthodox NGO raised hundreds of thousands in his name, but the money went to a general fund instead.

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Five-year-old with cancer patient, S. at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Five-year-old with cancer patient, S. at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.Credit: Courtesy
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

An NGO in the ultra-Orthodox world raised hundreds of thousands of shekels in a fundraising campaign for a five-year-old boy with cancer, but officials familiar with the case said that the boy's family only received a mere fraction.

Shavat Aniyim ("The Cry of the Poor") is an NGO that was established in 2006 and works to raise funds in the ultra-Orthodox sector to aid the needy and the sick. In 2012, following mismanagement in the NGO, Israel’s Registrar of Non-Profit Organizations asked the court to dismiss its management.

In the past year, the organization carried out a big campaign for S., a five-year-old boy from an ultra-Orthodox city near Jerusalem who suffers from brain cancer and who needs complex surgery. In a video published on Shavat Aniyim's Facebook page, the boy's pained voice is heard asking, "Dear Jews, please pray for my health."

The video shows photos of the little boy in a wheelchair at the Western Wall plaza and on a plane on the way to surgery. Viewers were asked to donate in honor of a day of prayer for him.

The organization and the family signed a contract allowing the former to make use of the child's photos. The organization called donors, presented S.' story and asked for money, saying that it is helping the family deal with the disease. 

But from information obtained by Haaretz, it seems that despite the heart-wrenching campaign and photos, the family itself only received a tiny amount from the hundreds of thousands of shekels gathered: only 13,000 shekels ($3,370).

Ten thousand shekels were received for medication not covered by the Health Ministry, 2,000 shekels in food stamps for supermarket chain Rami Levy, and another 1,500 shekels were transferred to the family.

The family asked the organization for more money for medical treatments, transportation, medicine and other expenses, but was turned down. The organization says that 21,000 shekels were transferred to the family, and not 13,000 shekels.

According to a person familiar with the incident, "the father is busy now with saving his son's life and doesn’t want to deal with this. He expects to receive the money for his son. He needs to beg for money for transportation and additional treatments for the family the whole time." 

The NGO's call center raised hundreds of thousands of shekels in a month. According to one of the operators, in all telephone conversations S.' name was used to receive donations. The campaign ended this past month, but the operator said that, in a conservative estimate, at least hundreds of thousands of shekels were raised for S. 

The organization's internal procedures don’t specify which causes it raises money for via different donations, and therefore it’s not possible to put a number on the amount of money raised for the child. The phone operators were directed by the NGO's managers to tell donors that they are raising money "for S. and other patients." This legal somersault enables the transfer funds to a general fund even if the donor meant to donate to a specific cause.

Shavat Aniyim responded that "contrary to the report, the public wasn’t asked to donate for a day of prayer for the sick child, but only to join the prayer." Moreover, the organization asked to clarify that "a fundraising campaign wasn’t carried out for the child, but the NGO's regular fundraising system raised funds for him and for others with medical needs. In practice, the funds' distribution is done according to the patients' needs and according to the needs of all those supported by the organization."

"The organization has transferred tens of thousands of shekels" to the child's family for medical treatment and "will continue to do so as needed." 

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