T’ruah Files IRS Complaint Against U.S. Jewish Groups Sending Funds to Israeli Terrorist Orgs

RELEASE DATE: August 30, 2018

New York, NY. ― T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights filed complaints Wednesday against three American Jewish groups raising money for Israeli institutions that promote terrorism.

The complaints — against the Staten Island-based Jewish Heritage Movement, the Manhattan-based Central Fund of Israel, and the Skokie, Ill.,-based American Friends of Yeshivat HaRaayon HaYehudi — call on the Internal Revenue Service to revoke their tax-exempt status because the dollars raised benefit far-right Jewish terrorist groups in Israel.

Read more about our complaint in Haaretz.

Organizations are ineligible for tax-exempt status if the income or assets they disburse are used for illegal or terrorist activities.

Jewish Heritage Movement raises money for Jerusalem’s Heritage House, whose director actively promotes the teachings of Rabbi Meir Kahane and encourages American Jews to volunteer at illegal settlements in the West Bank. Kahane’s Kach party and Kahane Chai, an organization founded in the late rabbi’s memory, were both outlawed in Israel in 1994, and both organizations have been on the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations since 1997. Heritage House, which operates a free hostel for American Jewish men, recently drew media attention for posting a “Haters of Israel” list inciting against numerous prominent Jews, including Peter Beinart, Natalie Portman, and T’ruah Executive Director Rabbi Jill Jacobs.

Both Central Fund of Israel and the American Friends of Yeshivat HaRaayon HaYehudi fund Yeshivat HaRaayon HaYehudi, a Kahane-founded yeshiva that actively promotes the American-born rabbi’s videos and that teaches his philosophy; Hemla, which serves as a conduit for funding to Lehava, a group that carries out violence against Palestinians and mixed Jewish-Palestinian gatherings; and Honenu, which sends money to Jews who are accused or convicted of terrorism. The leadership of Honenu, Hemla and Lehava includes proteges of Kahane such as Betzi Gopstein, a former Kach activist who was arrested in 1990 on suspicion of murdering an Arab couple.

This is not the first time T’ruah has spoken out against American Jewish organizations that support far-right Israeli terrorism with tax-deductible contributions. In 2016, the IRS investigated Central Fund of Israel’s funding of Honenu in response to a complaint by T’ruah. Funding has subsequently been resumed.

“As rabbis and Jews, we have an obligation to combat those who promote and support terrorism through a twisted reading of Jewish tradition,” said T’ruah Executive Director Rabbi Jill Jacobs. “As Americans, we refuse to allow our tax dollars to subsidize those carrying out the legacy of the two organizations tied to Rabbi Meir Kahane, which were banned in Israel as terrorist organizations in 1994 and designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the U.S. Department of State in 1997.”

“U.S. taxpayer subsidized funding, including that to the Jewish Heritage Movement, Yeshivat HaRaayon HaYehudi, Hemla, and Honenu, directly supports incitement against Palestinians, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Israeli and American Jewish human rights leaders,” Jacobs added. “In the worst cases, this funding has supported physical attacks, vandalism, and even murder.”

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights mobilizes a network of almost 2,000 rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism that, together with the Jewish community, act on the Jewish imperative to respect and advance the human rights of all people. Grounded in Torah and our Jewish historical experience and guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we call upon Jews to assert Jewish values by raising our voices and taking concrete steps to protect and expand human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories.

To learn more or to speak with Rabbi Jill Jacobs, contact Julie Wiener at jwiener@truah.org