Head Of Igud HaRabbonim In Charity Scandal

Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, long-time Jewish Press columnist and executive vice president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America (Igud HaRabbonim) has a checkered past. He has been found guilty of fraud in a civil court action, has a Security and Exchange Commission civil fraud prosecution hanging over ghis head, was convcted of tax fraud and served jail time, and has older problems going back thirty years. Now, he and a charity he runs are linked with taking apparently illegal donations to try to oust Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

The Jewish Week’s Larry Cohler-Esses reports:

…The Internal Revenue Service prohibits the use of charity money for partisan political purposes—including abroad—and bars donors from taking deductions on contributions made to such causes. Hikind’s use of a religious charity to channel funds connected to his ad were first noted on The Politicker, a blog published by The New York Observer, and followed up on YudelLine, a Web site authored by Larry Yudelson, a former reporter for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The ad in question ran last month in a number of high-profile Jewish papers, including The Jewish Week, The Forward and The Jewish Press. Headlined in large type at the top of the ad with a picture of Olmert was the message: “PRIME MINISTER OLMERT, PLEASE RESIGN!”

The ad went on to denounce Olmert, also in upper case type, as, “ARROGANT,” “IRRESPONSIBLE,” “DELUSIONAL,” “INEPT,” “CONFUSED,” “INDECISIVE,” “OVERWHELMED,” AND “INCOMPETENT.”

“Olmert, please resign. For the sake of Israel and the Jewish people,” the ad concluded. Its sponsor was identified as “ASSEMBLYMAN DOV HIKIND,” adding, “COMMITTEE IN FORMATION.” Smaller type on the bottom instructed donors wishing to “participate in this campaign” to “forward your tax deductible contributions to Yad Moshe, 1254 E. 35th Street, Brooklyn NY 11210”—Sender’s residence.

After reviewing the ad, Bruce Hopkins, one of the country’s leading authorities on charities law said, “I just don’t see how these contributions are tax deductible. They’re clearly for a political campaign.”

Further, he said, if the funds collected were spent to advance the cause of ousting Olmert, “It would cause them [Yad Moshe] to lose their tax-exempt status.”

Hopkins conceded that in most cases, “When you think of a political campaign, you think of transferring money to help someone get elected or to prevent their election. Here, it’s more in the nature of a recall. But it’s the same outcome.” He noted the ad’s use of the word “campaign” in its solicitation and suggested that could have legal implications.

Marcus Owens, a former chief of the IRS’s exempt organizations division, which includes charities, said, “What the ad suggests is potentially actionable. An ad calling for the resignation of a political figure is not a charitable act.”…

Rabbi Tannenbaum declined to say how large Yad Moshe’s budget was. And no financial data on the charity were available because it is registered with the IRS as a religious organization. Unlike secular nonprofits, such as education or social-welfare organizations, religious charities are exempted from reporting to the IRS or to the public on their finances or how they spend their money. The government maintains this exemption to avoid entanglement between religion and state. The charities, in exchange, are expected to rigorously avoid involvement in partisan politics.

Rabbi Tannenbaum, however, has had a checkered record when it comes to handling money. The cleric, who heads the Rabbinical Alliance of America and is spiritual leader of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights, pleaded guilty to tax evasion in 1996 and served 10 months in prison for the felony.

More recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Rabbi Tannenbaum with securities fraud in a civil case. And a jury in 2002 found him guilty in a federal civil suit filed by a plaintiff who claimed he was a victim of the fraud, which involved false claims about the assets of a company whose stock Rabbi Tannenbaum and others were promoting. The SEC case remains unresolved. Rabbi Tannenbaum is appealing the jury’s decision in the civil suit.

Rabbi Tannenbaum declined to comment on his criminal conviction. But he said that the campaign to get Olmert to resign “is absolutely not political. It’s definitely within the functions and purposes of a charitable organization . … We’re not endorsing any candidate. We’re talking about the unity of the Jewish people. It’s moral and religious.”

He said he and Hikind chose to use Yad Moshe as their conduit on the advice of an accountant, whom he declined to name.

Rabbi Tannenbaum said of Yad Moshe, whose address is his residence, “It’s a congregation, basically. All the things I do besides my shul [B’nai Israel of Linden Heights] are through Yad Moshe.” These include “a lot of chesed activities”—aid and comfort to the downtrodden—“bikur cholim”—visiting the sick—“and other activities like that.”…

Add to this another strike against the greasy Rabbi Tannenbaum:

In a proceeding pursuant to CPLR 5231 (f) to recover accrued installments under an income execution, B’nai Israel of Linden Heights appeals from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Kings County (Saitta, J.), dated July 29, 2005, which granted the petition and awarded the petitioner the principal sum of $3,538.55.

Ordered that the judgment is affirmed, with costs.

On November 8, 2002 the petitioner David Sheldon was awarded judgment against Gershon Tannenbaum (hereinafter the judgment debtor) in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas in the sum of $422,643.95 following a trial on the merits. The judgment was subsequently docketed in the Kings County Clerk’s office.

The judgment debtor is employed as rabbi and spiritual leader of the appellant, B’nai Israel of Linden Heights, a synagogue in Brooklyn, and receives a annual salary of $16,000, paid in semi-monthly installments. On or about January 30, 2003 an income execution against the judgment debtor’s salary was issued and delivered to the New York City Sheriff, County of Kings pursuant to CPLR 5231 (b). Upon the judgment debtor’s failure to pay the required installments, the income execution was served on the appellant, as the judgment debtor’s employer, pursuant to CPLR 5231 (e). Following the appellant’s failure to tender any payments pursuant to the income execution, [*2]the petitioner commenced this proceeding to recover accrued installments. The Supreme Court granted the petition. We affirm.

The judgment debtor’s annual salary of $16,000 constitutes "money from any source" upon which an income execution may be issued pursuant to CPLR 5231 (b). Contrary to the appellant’s contention, the only exemptions from application of the judgment debtor’s salary to the satisfaction of the underlying money judgment are those set forth in CPLR 5205 (d) and 5231 (b). As the income execution in this case complied with the provisions of CPLR article 52, the Supreme Court properly granted the petition.

The parties’ remaining contentions are without merit. Crane, J.P., Spolzino, Fisher and Lunn, JJ., concur.

[Hat Tips: JWB and Ploni.]

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16 Comments

Filed under Crime, Haredim, Israel, Jewish Leadership

16 responses to “Head Of Igud HaRabbonim In Charity Scandal

  1. AG

    That Tannenbaum swindler is a skunk. He should be publicly defrocked and shamed. How many scandals will it take until the Jewish Press and Iggud fire him ?

    He also recently started a King David foundation (http://www.kingdavidfoundation.com) and has asked for contributions to be sent to his home address (see http://www.jewishpress.com/page.do/19128/My_Machberes.html)

    He also has a Margaret Tannenbaum foundation.

    Is such a man fit to handle charity funds and be in a position of leadership ?

    Actually this post is too kind to him. It omits his fraudulent scheming from the 1970’s which landed him in the NY Times then, as well as other of his ‘good deeds’.

    In baseball, the rule is three strikes and your out. How many swindles does it take to be disqualified as a Hassidic leader like Gershon ?

  2. AG

    Why don’t you ask Gershon to come on here and defend himself ? His address is Yeshiva613@aol.com. Typical of a swindler like himself to try to wrap himself up in his faith, as the proverbial scoundrel wraps himself in the flag, with an e-mail address like that.

  3. >Actually this post is too kind to him. It
    >omits his fraudulent scheming from the 1970’s
    >which landed him in the NY Times then

    see his detailed history going back to 1972:
    http://theunorthodoxjew.blogspot.com/2006/09/vile-fraud-that-is-yisroel-belsky-part.html

  4. NG

    1) The full name of Gershon’s foundation is Yad Moshe Verpelet – it seems that Verpelet is the town of one of his Tannebaum ancestors in Hungary.

    2) Note the meager salary Gershon’s congregation pays him – $16,000/year. That tells you something about it.

    The congregation is a joke. While it has a sizable building from years ago, it is small and in poor shape. A good deal of those seen in attendance a while back seemed to be immigrants with limited English proficiency. Along with a few old timers. Neither group is likely to be online reading in English to find out about Gershon’s activities that way.

    3) It seems that Gershon had the congregation file suit (at least in name) for him to protect the money.

    4) Gershon’s Iggud buddies are busy promoting him. Rabbi Y. Spivak, Iggud VP and radio host, features Gershon on his radio program on Talkline (ww.talklinecommunications.com), promoting him as an expert on Hassidism. Zev Brenner, President of TCN, recently did the same, hosting Tannenbaum to blast Neturei Karta. Hikind has similarly had Tannenbaum on his program.

  5. Zev Brenner had the felon Hertz Frankel from Satmar on his show the same evening Jeff Herman was on. These felons carry-on like nothing ever happenned. A day in the life of rabbi-felons, ho-hum.

  6. Nigritude Ultramarine

    Note the meager salary Gershon’s congregation pays him – $16,000/year.

    Yeah, I saw that too. I bet the rest of his salary comes in brown paper bags in low, unmarked bills.

  7. NG

    “I bet the rest of his salary comes in brown paper bags in low, unmarked bills.”

    I have my doubts. If you would see his ‘congregation’, you would realize that it’s glory days are long gone.

    Would a congregation worth it’s salt pick a bozo swindler like Gershon to lead it ? What probably happened is that they needed someone, he lived nearby anyway, the salary offered was meager, so not many were attracted to it, so he took it as a p/t gig and to have the prestige of being Rabbi of a Shul. The congregation officials probably had (and maybe even have) no idea about his crookedness, Gershon is an accomplished con artist, he probably conned them too.

  8. NG

    “executive vice president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America (Igud HaRabbonim)”

    I think he calls himself Iggud director these days. Sounds more prestigious.

  9. NG

    By the way, while you’re at it, why don’t you ask him about the close to 850 ‘Rabbi’ members who claims belong to the Iggud.

    He is trying to pad the numbers and thereby increase the influence of his puny group in the eyes of unsuspecting members of the media and public.

    Where are all these phony ‘members’ ? Is he enrolling anyone called ‘Rabbi’ he finds on google ? Sounds like he may have taken a page from the mormon practice of posthumously converting anyone they wish to their faith.

    Watch the attendance at the monthly Iggud meetings over an extended period, that will give you a real picture of the group. After filtering out people with time on their hands, those who came to get a free breakfast, and those who are Iggud officials or employees, there is not much left. All of Gershon’s manipulations and machinations can only go so far.

  10. me

    “The Internal Revenue Service prohibits the use of charity money for partisan political purposes—including abroad—and bars donors from taking deductions on contributions made to such causes.”
    If that’s the case, the far left self hating Jews of the Shefa fund, that support every left wing anti Israel intiative they can find, here and abroad, should be out of business tomorrow. We’ll see if it happens.

  11. Anonymous

    Tennenbaum is in fact the “director” of the Iggud. The Vice President is Yaakov Klass of the Jewish Press.

  12. P

    Shmarya, you chutzpanik, how dare you criticize Gershon, don’t you know that he has the hechsher of the Igud Haganovim ?

  13. P

    Tannenbaum’s buddy, R. Y. Klass of the Jewish Press, along with a colleague at the JP, Chazan B. Siller, was recently involved with a concert for the 40th yahrzeit of Chazan Moshe Koussevitsky. Where was it held ? At Gershon the swindler’s Temple.

  14. AG

    “long-time Jewish Press columnist”

    He’s not there for so long, just the last few years.

  15. Anonymous

    What are you guys worried about? Rabbi Balkany will vindicate him!

  16. Anonymous

    I miss my Rebbie Reb. Nochum Josephy from the Igud. An honest, sincere, servant of the public.

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