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I take exception to Mr. Rosenthal's comments, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt - he is apparently unaware of the past since he is relatively new to the position - but his statements are not accurate.
The budget was never open for review until there was enough hue and cry that USCJ had to post it. How do I know? About 4 years ago, I requested a copy of USCJ's budget and was first told that it was not open for viewing. I pushed and they then agreed to show it to me if I came to their offices in NY. I was told that they would not give me a copy, but would allow me to see it. When I made a big enough fuss about having to go to NY to see it, they agreed to send Robert Sunshine, then the USCJ treasurer, to the CT office in Rocky Hill to show it to me. They paid to fly him from Washington, DC to CT and to put him up overnight in a hotel, just to show me the budget! That got my Spidey senses tingling and I asked other presidents from our region to join me. Six of us met with Mr. Sunshine, and we soon discovered that the budget he brought was only a budget summary. There were no details at all. In addition, it became apparent to me that, besides no detail, there were things completely missing from the budget summary, the most glaring of which was Fuchsberg.
When cornered (figuratively), Mr. Sunshine admitted that there was a second budget. It then came to light that Fuchsberg was being subsidized to the tune of $500,000 a year from USCJ funds (our dues) to cover its mortgage and that was occurring year after year and there were (at that time) about 5 years left that we would have to cover the mortgage. When asked why, he admitted that USCJ bought Fuchsberg before they had the money in hand, or even enough commitments. They were unable to come up with the money, so USCJ had to subsidize Fuchsberg to the tune of a half million dollars a year from what was, essentially, money taken away from support for its members - us.
I tried to smuggle a copy of the budget out of that meeting, but Mr. Sunshine was very careful to make sure he got all the copies back. That was over 4 years ago, and there was a huge amount to try to absorb in one meeting, especially with the lack of detail given to us, but as I recall, one budget was for $18 million and the second, hidden budget was $10 million. There were other things in the budget that were examples of questionable accounting.
At that time, USCJ was trying to sell the Park Ave. offices and, according to Mr. Sunshine, a large amount of profit was to be made by the sale and a substantial sum would go back into the USCJ operating budget to give more service to the members. I have no idea if that ever happened. I do know that USCJ could have operated out of Brooklyn, the Bronx, or even Jersey City – all locations that make NYC easily accessible for them, but would cost a lot less money to buy. There is no reason, other than ego or vanity, why USCJ needs expensive digs in NYC. The excuse that USCJ needs to be there because other Jewish organizations are there is just keeping up with the Schwartz's. Unfortunately, USCJ can't afford to be there and being there is an example of its fiscal irresponsibility.By the way, Fuchsberg is on a very valuable, high traffic corner lot in Jerusalem. It did not need to be in that exclusive of a location, but Fuchsberg was something the (then) leadership of USCJ wanted so badly that they were like a college kid who uses the rent money to buy that 60" flat screen TV. They just wanted it so badly that they had to have it at any cost.
The reason that USCJ posted the budgets on their website is that, after I posted about our experience with Mr. Sunshine and other presidents who were there added their thoughts, there was such an outpouring of negative feedback on the list serv that USCJ felt it had to do something to appease the large number of unhappy campers they had on their hands.
One last thing – I take great exception with Mr. Rosenthal's depiction of USCJ's transparency. The General Assembly that Mr. Rosenthal refers to is a sham. It is largely made up of USCJ loyalists - people who USCJ's officers know will blindly follow them. These are people who have been groomed for these positions . They hand pick those who will be cooperative and not rock the boat (something that appears to be backfiring since some of those loyalists are now becoming dissenters). If you want transparency, why not make sure that everyone, including synagogue presidents and clergy are kept apprised about what is going on? The GA isn't paying our dues for us. Richard Skolnick should be making these announcements to us at the same time he informs the GA.
I know it is nearly impossible to run an organization based on the consensus of its members, but USCJ has listened so little to us and has been so unsuccessful, that we have no reason to have faith in their ability to make good business decisions. Until they restore that faith, they should be making sure that we know exactly what;s going on at all times.
Ira FinkIPPBeth Sholom B'nai Israel (350~)Manchester, CT
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