Four New Yorkers charged with pocketing aid for Israel
New York state’s attorney general accused four New Yorkers of pocketing more than $2.5 million in donations for charitable projects in Israel.
The four defendants from Brooklyn are Yaakov Weingarten, 52, and his wife Rivka, 52; and two of his employees, Simon Weiss, 28, and David Yifat, 66.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that his office filed suit against the defendents and obtained a termporary restraining order shutting down the charitable fundraising operation run by Yaakov Weingarten.
Rivka Weingarten is alleged to have benefited from the fraud. Yifat is aleged to have been the office manager who supervised Weingarten’s telemarketing and mail solicitation operation, according to the attorney general’s office.
Schneiderman said the four “brazenly abused the generosity of the public, and in particular the selfless donations that many Jews provided for charitable programs in Israel” by using more than $2.5 million raised in donations for personal expenses from 2007 to 2013, including payments on mortgages on two houses.
The charitable funds were used to pay for remodeling of a second home, dentist visits, utility bills, for personal vehicles, video rentals and a trip to Borgata Casino in Atlantic City.
The lawsuit was filed June 27 in the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn.
According to a press release from the attorney general’s office, the organization operated a call center in Brooklyn in which they raised millions of dollars using19 charities “that supposedly carried out programs in Israel or conducted religious activities.”
An investigation by the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau found that “most of these charities did not operate or exist, and were intead used by Wingarten for his and his family’s personal benefit.”
The defendants bounced at least 2,100 checks and wasted $65,000 of charitable donations in overdraft fees, Schneiderman charged.
Schneiderman’s office would not say whether criminal charges were also forthcoming.
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of “preying on a vulnerable public’s charitable instincts, and in particular the charitable impulses that many persons of the Jewish faith have for Israel.”
Only two of the 19 entities were even registered in Israel, Schneiderman said. The solicitations also used “doctored photographs” of workers and equipment belonging to actual Israeli emergency organizations, the complaint said.
Beyond the individual defendants, the suit names 19 organizations or “names” used by Weingarten to carry out his operation, including seven not-for-profit corporations (Hatzalah Rescue Of Israel, Inc.; Shearim, Inc. A/K/A Shearin; Bnei Torah, Inc.; Chesed L’yisrael V’chasdei Yosef, Inc.; Yad L’shabbat, Inc.; Hatzalah Shomron, Inc.; Pulse Foundation, Inc. A/K/A Pulse: The Israel Leukemia And Cancer Society). Four “religious” corporations are also named as defendants (Agudath Chesed Bikur Cholim Israel, Inc.; Kupat Reb Meir Baal Haness Bnei Torah Eretz Yisrael, Inc.; Congregation Yad L’shabbat, Inc.; and Shearim Hayad L’torah Center For Hatzalah L’shabbat and Chesed L’yisrael, Inc.), and eight “charities” that exist in name only (Israel Emergency Center; Magen Israel; Hayad Victim Assistance Fund; Lmaan Hatorah; Our Children; Zaka Israel A/K/A Zaka; Yaldei Simcha Yisrael; and Yad Yisrael).
by JTA and Suzanne Pollak
Jewish patrol pledges to guard London mosque
An Orthodox Jewish patrol group in London said it would protect a mosque after a rise in hate crimes against Muslims.
The Shomrim patrol group accepted a request for protection by the North London Community Centre in Cazenove Road, an Islamic institution situated in the heavily Jewish borough of Hackney in northern London.
The deal was brokered at a recent meeting coordinated by Ian Sharer, a member of the local council, the Hackney Gazette reported this week.
It came following a rise in anti-Muslim attacks after the slaying of a British soldier on May 22 in London. The suspect, a 22-year-old Muslim extremist, was filmed holding a large knife over the soldier’s decapitated body. A second suspect was charged with attempted murder and is believed to have acted as an accomplice.
Tell Mama, a watchdog on hate crime, recorded 212 incidents in the nine days that followed the murder, including 120 online. In 2012, the same group documented 12 anti-Muslim incidents per week on average and 624 in total.
Sharer, who is Jewish, told the Gazette that he was asked by “Muslim friends to chair the meeting. The meeting was a great success. The Shomrim patrols have agreed to include the local mosques and other buildings as part of their routine patrols.”
The local Shomrim group was set up in 2008 in part as a reaction to anti-Semitic incidents and now has 22 members, the Gazette reported. Members of the 24-hour patrol have been trained by Hackney police and wear neighborhood patrol badges and uniforms.
Chaim Hochhauser, 33, one of two Shomrim supervisors, said the request for protection came from the Muslim community through Sharer.
“We told them what we could do. We are pleased the Jewish community wanted to help,” Hochhauser said.
Bible signed by Einstein fetches $68,500 at auction
A Bible signed by Albert Einstein sold for $68,500 at an auction in New York City.
The Bible was part of a fine books and manuscripts auction at Bonhams on June 25, The Associated Press reported. The final price far exceeded its presale estimate of $1,500 to $2,500.
The German-born, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and his wife signed it in 1932 and gave it to an American friend, Harriett Hamilton.
In a German inscription, Einstein wrote that the Bible “is a great source of wisdom and consolation and should be read frequently,” according to AP.
The auction house did not reveal the buyer.
— JTA News and Features