One Jewish charity CEO hid allegedly stolen cash in his apartment closet. Another had an affair with his assistant while the assistant’s son-in-law stole from the CEO’s organization. A third covered up sex abuse charges for decades.
Scandal after scandal has hit New York’s top Jewish charities this year. Experts blame lax oversight, saying that the multi-decade leadership tenures common among Jewish charity CEOs have corroded governance at some of the Jewish community’s largest not-for-profits.
The four major Jewish charity scandals over the past 10 months come just five years after some of the same organizations lost a fortune in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
“It has definitely shaken a lot of people’s confidence,” said Rabbi David Teutsch, who heads the Center for Jewish Ethics at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, referring to the repeated blasts of bad news. “The response clearly needs to be greater controls and better training.”
Two-decade terms are common for the men who run the nation’s largest Jewish organizations. Wealthy families hold seats on multiple boards of trustees. Several professionals who specialize in Jewish charity management told the Forward that fixes exist for the governance problems facing the Jewish not-for-profit sector, but they require structural changes. Executive suites need to turn over faster, the experts said. Trustees need to be better trained, and to be selected with an eye toward oversight skills, not just deep pockets.