Tuesday, October 25, 2016


At the end of this piece, please join me in asking the question...

The question "why" could apply to so much at JFNA. I'll focus today on the "why" everyone involved at JFNA in accepting and maintaining the secrecy (and that's what it is: "secrecy" not "confidentiality") of a $1,000,000 conduit transaction between a secret donor, JFNA as the conduit and the p.r./marketing firm SS+K? 

Here's what I have learned so far and, trust me, the secrecy and the conduit nature of the transaction, if that's what it is as it appears to be, do not reflect well at all on anyone involved at JFNA -- from the CFO, to two successive Board Chairs, and, of course with Jerry "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil" Silverman.

For reasons unknown and unrevealed, JFNA's leaders believe that they have the absolute "right'' to maintain a veil of claimed "confidentiality" over a consultant contract the vaguest of outlines of which were disclosed by title only in its 2014 990, filed of record, as you know, in Fall 2016. I would like to have written about the legitimacy of this contract's purpose, but JFNA refuses to acknowledge the facts of, anything about this transaction as if it has the absolute right to do so. It doesn't.

With a review of the public record and with the help of some of JFNA's leaders who know what happened but not why, and objected to the transaction, here's what we've pieced together and, admittedly, we still don't have all of the facts, in fact we don't have any of the facts -- those are locked away "...in a mayonnaise jar hidden on Richard Sandler's porch" or somewhere:
  1. Seth Klarman is a Boston-based investor and incredible philanthropist who is the major force behind The Times of Israel, the Palestine Media Watch  and CAMERA among his philanthropic and media investments. In the most interesting article in ejewishphilanthropy, Founding Funders: The Story of How American Philanthropy built a Jewish Homeland, the author cites Klarman for his major gifts to Shalem College,  the Friends of the IDF, The Israel Project and Birthright -- all gifts in Klarman's or his family foundation's name;
  2. The Palestine Media Watch: "Founded in 1996, Palestinian Media Watch is an Israeli research institute that studies Palestinian society from a broad range of perspectives by monitoring and analyzing the Palestinian Authority through its media and schoolbooks. PMW’s major focus is on the messages that the Palestinian leaders, from the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas, send to the population through the broad range of institutions and infrastructures they control."
  3. As disclosed in the 2014 990 (the last available 990) for the Klarman Family Foundation, SS+K, as Klarman's consultant, received a direct grant in excess of $300,000 for a cryptic "Program Strategy Consulting" project. (Is this beginning to sound familiar?). In the affected year, JFNA's staff told Silverman that JFNA should not be involved at all in a $1,000,000 grant that sounded to me very much just like this one. Silverman was heard by some lay leaders to be furious that any JFNA professionals would object to JFNA becoming a conduit for whatever the purposes known only to them.
  4. In the JFNA 2014 990 the undisclosed, secret conduit grant from that undisclosed donor to SS+K through the JFNA conduit was for $1,000,000 for...
  5. ...something called an SS+K "Project Connect Production." A contract, you will recall, that JFNA will not disclose to me or, apparently, to any JFNA Board member. "It's confidential;" it's none of my business and it's none of your business.
The Klarman Family Foundation's stated work and goals are noble:
"We believe Israel is essential to the Jewish experience and even to Jewish survival. In an environment of growing anti-Semitism, Israel is the one Jewish state — a historic homeland where every Jew is welcome. Israel’s significance extends beyond its importance to the Jewish people. It is also a dynamic, diverse and democratic society, with an entrepreneurial spirit that has helped make it a global leader in science, technology and medicine. The Klarman Family Foundation is committed to improving the quality of life and access to opportunities for all Israeli citizens so that they may benefit from the country’s prosperity."
Some who have examined the work and goals of the Foundation have raised serious questions:
"The Foundation also funds a number of controversial Arab and Islamic groups. In 2011, Klarman gave $10,000 to the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), which claims to be “committed to strengthening Palestinian-American relations.”...ATFP also receives substantial funding from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), receiving $148,800 from the country in 2011...."
Another such group is the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), founded...by Zuhdi Jasser, a right-wing ideologue and promoter of surveillance of Muslim communities. Klarman is also a prominent funder of the American Islamic Congress, an organization that the George W. Bush administration helped start...
Some observers have argued that Klarman's funding reflects a "wedging" strategy, with Klarman aiming to support "Muslim and Arab-oriented front groups that advance pro-Israel interests while undermining the objectives of mainstream Muslim and Arab-American organizations."  (Citations omitted) 
So, here's what I believe but can't  know for certain because JFNA declared this consulting agreement to be a secret beyond scrutiny: 
(1) Silverman, unbeknownst to those JFNA professionals who opposed JFNA having any role, even as a conduit, in this $1,000,000 grant (perhaps, to support or expand the Klarman/SS+K Palestine Media Watch) when it was originally proposed; perhaps, because of the perceived potential "political purposes" of the grant, without disclosing the purpose of the secret grant proposal even to his then Board Chair, directed that the "deal" be approved: 

(2) he pushed the CFO to approve it -- and she did so never understanding (or caring?) that this deal would be hidden from the JFNA Board if asked;

(3) Seth Klarman, with a preexisting relationship with SS+K, possibly worried that a $1,000,000 grant directly to a for-profit entity, SS+K, at someone's suggestion, may have laundered the money from his Family Foundation through JFNA, its ultimate destination -- where else, SS+K, for some undisclosed Advocacy project (Palestine Media Watch? Anti-Muslim propaganda?) hidden behind the 990 shorthand "Project Connect Production" the substance of which was known only to the donor, Jerry Silverman, Pam Zaltsman, Michael Siegal and, now, Richard Sandler.. Any wonder that responsible JFNA leaders might have raised questions? 

And, if I'm right, if there is fire where JFNA is currently blowing smoke, this is a truly dangerous game that JFNA is playing. Yet, Richard Sandler has told me that he has reviewed this transaction and everything is just fine!

So, if I'm wrong about all of this, as is more than possible of course, and this is nothing more than a parallel donor-directed grant like the Ruderman Foundation disability grants, then why the need for secrecy? And who, really, demanded the "secrecy?" Klarman whose name is all over his other philanthropy? Silverman?? Why not just disclose the following: the donor, the purpose of funding SS+K and the results of Silverman's "monitoring" the grant for JFNA. The question of "why" the need for confidentiality arises as well because Seth Klarman's and his family Foundation's philanthropy are well known and not anonymous.

And, now, let's be clear: this is not a "cover-up" of the end result,  this cover-up was on from the beginning....and has been ever since. But, as has always been the case: Richard Sandler, "the truth shall set you free." 

...so, the question remains: "Why?"



Anonymous said...

I am sorry to write the following.

The question is not why.

Greed is an easy concept to understand.

At this point in time, I have no choice but to believe the worst.

Until someone proves otherwise, it is reasonable to assume that this was an illegal transaction whose purpose was money laundering and kickbacks.this million dollars lined the pockets of insiders.

Dear JFNA, please prove me wrong.....

Anybody, please PPROVE me wrong.

Anonymous said...

I know that there are responsible JFNA Board members reading this blog.
There is a Board meeting at the GA in a few weeks: Will someone please have the courage to stand up to the microphone and ask these questions and demand an answer?
If there are legal issues that could impact members of the Board, then enlighten those in attendance......but please do something!