U.K. Supporter Forces Audit of Major Israeli Soup Kitchen

British supporters of Hazon Yeshaya say they were compelled to halt the transfer of funds after they had 'heard rumors' of financial irregularities.

One of the largest networks of soup kitchens in Israel agreed to allow an accounting firm to examine its financial records this week after a group of supporters in the United Kingdom announced that they would halt the transfer of funds to the group, pending the results of an external investigation.

U.K. Friends of Hazon Yeshaya issued a press release last Friday announcing that money raised for Hazon Yeshaya, a 14-year-old Jerusalem-based charity, would not be sent to Israel until the auditing firm Deloitte completed its analysis of the organization's finances.

hazon yeshaya - Yulia  Mestechkin
Yulia Mestechkin

British supporters of Hazon Yeshaya say they were compelled to halt the transfer of funds after they had "heard rumors" of financial irregularities, according to Shimon Cohen, a spokesperson for the group. "A trustee of a charity is a huge and heavy legal responsibility," said Cohen.

Cohen stressed that the group was not accusing anyone of impropriety. Rather, he said, "they must make sure the money they are raising is being used correctly."

Directors of the Hazon Yeshaya head office issued a press release on Tuesday in response, seeking to reassure its supporters. The organization says it has "cooperated fully" with the review, and that "the Deloitte audit will prove that all donations are being properly applied in Israel according to the principles of good governance."

Hazon Yeshaya's 60 distribution points provide more than 400,000 hot meals to Israelis in need every month, according to the group's website.

The organization says that it "subscribes to a doctrine of transparency."

Its website includes a digital copy of its 2010 IRS tax form, listing the organization's net assets at just over $13 million.

Cohen estimates that the U.K. Friends of Hazon Yeshaya raises about 1 million pounds for the network annually. A representative of the American Friends of Hazon Yeshaya told Haaretz that they would not be freezing funds and would continue to transfer money raised to the network's head office in Israel.