Thursday, February 02, 2006

Stop downplaying the WJC report

The AG's report on the WJC is out and the feeling among those who have addressed its findings in the blogosphere seems to be that Israel Singer and his colleagues have been completely exonorated. In addition, of course, everyone is jumping on the media coverage, particularly in the Jewish Week, for 'misrepresenting' what's in the report and simply blasting the WJC for the hell of it (or because they're terrible journalists and can't bear to admit they've been wrong).
Well, I beg to differ with the first point, and think that the second has allowed everyone to take their eye off the real issue.
The report, which I've read, is completely and consistently clear on one thing: nothing criminal went on at the WJC and there was no criminal intent. From that point of view, many of the suspicions raised against the organisation have proven unfounded. However -- and this is a big however -- it does, essentially, convict Singer et al of terrible financial mismanagement and negligence with what is NOT THEIR MONEY.
Says the Town Crier: "According to the Attorney General's statement, the WJC seems to be guilty of not much more than having been run like a Jewish Organization."
Well, sorry, the 'everybody does it' excuse simply doesn't cut it -- the only thing it's good for is as a warning to the other Jewish orgs who function this way to get themselves into shape, pronto. The report details some extremely serious issues and actions which -- while not criminal -- should not be downplayed. Officials at the WJC were using the organisation's money to pay for their children's school tuition, for G-d's sake, for life insurance for their partners, car leases, and acting completely carelessly with millions of dollars which again, were not theirs, but came in a large part from donors like you and -- well, not me, in this case, but you get the picture.
The fact is, in this day and age, Israel Singer saying that he simply isn't 'the organizational type' isn't good enough. All of these men are worldly, experienced and intelligent enough to have known better. If they can't handle the money, they should have hired someone who could, way before Mr Herbits was brought onto the scene. The fact is, again, if anyone is to blame for this entire episode, it is not Isi Liebler -- whatever his motives were, and it's clear that he's no tallit shekulo tchlet -- but the WJC men themselves -- for leaving themselves so outrageously open to it.
Think what you like of Gary Rosenblatt's coverage, Isi Liebler's motivations, etc etc etc, but that doesn't change the basic fact that this report is still extremely serious. The very fact that Mr Singer has been barred from taking up any position of financial management speaks for itself. This doesn't make him a bad man -- I'm sure the opposite -- but I'm sorry, if you donated money to the WJC, would you want him handling it? I wouldn't.

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