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