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December 25, 2011

Kars-4-Kids And Oorah Are Questioned By Charity Watchdogs

Kars4kidsKars4Kids, they learned, is the primary funder of a New Jersey organization called Oorah Inc. that provides religious-based services to Orthodox Jewish children. Kars4Kids paid $65,000 in fines in each state in 2009. Oregon also found that Kars4Kids failed to disclose that its "free" vacation vouchers offered at the time recruited people for a timeshare and contained hidden costs."If you donate to an organization called Kars4Kids, it's a huge red flag that the money isn't going to an organization with that name," said Lindsey Nichols, spokesperson for Guidestar, a national charity information websites. "Plus, some people may want to donate to a secular group or one from a different religion," added Daniel Borochoff, president of Charity Watch. "I guess they figure they wouldn't be as successful if people knew what was really going on."

 

Kars4Kids is questioned by charity watchdogs
JEAN HOPFENSPERGER • Star Tribune
 
The catchy jingle advertising Kars4Kids charity began blanketing radio airwaves across the Twin Cities around Thanksgiving. The ditty ends with: "We're a recognized 501(c)(3) charity organization, so you'll receive a maximum tax deduction."

The ad doesn't say that Kars4Kids is recognized for other reasons, such as for failing to disclose the beneficiaries of its car donations.

Kars4Kids is well known to attorneys general in Oregon and Pennsylvania who investigated the charity for leading donors to think the charity benefited a broad group of children, not a "narrow religious purpose."

Kars4Kids, they learned, is the primary funder of a New Jersey organization called Oorah Inc. that provides religious-based services to Orthodox Jewish children. Kars4Kids paid $65,000 in fines in each state in 2009.

Oregon also found that Kars4Kids failed to disclose that its "free" vacation vouchers offered at the time recruited people for a timeshare and contained hidden costs. Meanwhile, the New York attorney general investigated Kars4Kids last year as part of a broader probe into solicitation and spending practices of car donation charities.

Kars4Kids insists it's not trying to mislead anyone. There just isn't space in its advertisements to explain where the donations are headed, spokesman Rabbi Eli Mintz said.

"You have a 60-second spot: You don't have time to inform people of your mission," said Mintz, who also is the CEO of Oorah. "People can go to our website" to learn more, he said. Mintz said he is frustrated by the negative attention drawn to Kars4Kids, because no one has found financial improprieties or shown that it's a front for a sham charity, which is far more serious.

Although new to Minnesota this winter, Kars4Kids has been on the radar screen of national charity watchdogs. They are skeptical of the advertising that attracted roughly 70,000 car donations valued at $24 million in 2009.

"If you donate to an organization called Kars4Kids, it's a huge red flag that the money isn't going to an organization with that name," said Lindsey Nichols, spokesperson for Guidestar, a national charity information websites.

"Plus, some people may want to donate to a secular group or one from a different religion," added Daniel Borochoff, president of Charity Watch, a Chicago-based nonprofit watchdog. "I guess they figure they wouldn't be as successful if people knew what was really going on."

Catchy jingle

Twin Cities commuters driving home this holiday season, with radios tuned to stations such as WCCO or KFAN, can't help but catch the jingle. The ditty typically starts with a voice singing "1 877 kars for kids. K-A-R- S kars for kids. 1 877 kars for kids. Donate your car today."

The jingle has been played so often across the country that it's somewhat of an Internet sensation. Listeners, mostly those who can't shake it from their heads, have posted snarky comments online as well as video clips on YouTube.

The jingle hit the Minnesota market this winter, advertising a service that is attractive to many. A free tow for a junked car. Fast pickup. A vacation voucher. And a tax deduction, which is on donors' minds this time of the year, Borochoff said.

The formula works. Kars4Kids' revenue soared from $5.6 million in 2005 to $24.6 million in 2009, tax returns say.

But donors curious about what they are funding need to do some digging.

Click on www.kars4kids.org and learn that it has served 5,130 children with "11 unique programs." But nowhere on the home page does it say who these children are.

Only by drilling down will donors learn "Your car donation to Kars4Kids will benefit Joy for Our Youth, an organization dedicated to addressing the educational, material, and emotional needs of disadvantaged Jewish children and their families."

Joy for Our Youth, it turns out, is the legal entity behind Kars4Kids. It has its own website, which requires donors to do more digging to find the connection to Oorah, which is simply described as "a national nonprofit organization."

Oorah and Joy for Our Youth have the same address.

"It shouldn't be that complicated," said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, an online charity rating system that has posted a "donor advisory" warning next to its Kars4Kids link. "The more complicated it is, the greater the likelihood that things get buried. For example, if there is some kind of misuse of funds, it's harder to follow the trail."

Diluted donations

Another problem is donation dollars get diluted as they wind through charities, Borochoff said.

For example, tax statements show that Joy for Our Youth raised $24 million in 2009, spending $7 million on advertising and $12.7 million for a grant to Oorah.

Oorah, however, spent $6.5 million on its programs that year, according to tax returns. Another $3.5 million went to fundraising and administration, and $5.4 million was not disbursed.

Mintz says Kars4Kids was not trying to hide anything behind the multiple charities. Joy for Our Youth was the original name of the organization founded in 2000 to support Jewish youths. But Kars4Kids turned out to be catchier.

As for not revealing upfront that donations helped only Orthodox Jewish children, Mintz said that shouldn't matter to the public.

There are special services for African-American children, for example, and "for children of all flavors," he said. The most important thing is the charity is helping needy children, he said.

The Better Business Bureau reported in 2005 that Joy for Our Youth violated eight of its 20 standards, including those related to governance, finance and disclosures, said Bennett Weiner, who oversees the BBB's Wise Giving Alliance.

The BBB now is updating that review, said Weiner, adding, "We are carefully reviewing the language they use in their promotions."

Mintz responds that few charities meet all BBB standards. What's most important, he said, is that people know their donations are not paying for such things as high fundraising salaries.

Mintz stressed that donations to Kars4Kids support an important effort to help children who otherwise may not succeed. He's particularly proud of the hundreds of mentors who work with them. "I know we're not known there [in Minnesota] yet," Mintz said. "I ask people to learn about us."

Note that Mintz doesn't say (and the StarTrib didn't figure out) that almost all the "help" Oorah gives these Jewish kids is kiruv, missionary outreach, with aim of making these kids ultra-Orthodox.

The help it gives to real kids at risk – meaning poor kids who might not be Jewish and who don't have food at home or a warm jacket for the winter – is miniscule, and most of it appears to be given in response to states' attorneys general cracking down on the organization.

And this is truly sad.

If Kars-4-Kids used even 50% of the money it raises through car donations to help truly poor at risk kids who usually are not Jewish, they could do a tremendous kiddush Hashem, sanctify God's name in public.

Instead, Kars-4-Kids plays this sick game of deception.

And not one haredi gadol, rabbinic leader, has ever made a public statement against it.

What certain kabbalh-influenced haredi texts say disparagingly about non-Jews is really often true about haredim, and Kars-4-Kids is a good example og that.

The few kind acts it does for non-Jews are really done for Kars-4-Kids' and Oorah's own ulterior motives. It is really selfishness, as the Tanya or several other hasidic works would say about the kindness on non-Jews to Jews – except in reality as we know it today, the opposite is true, as Kars-4-Kids so clearly shows.

Previous Posts On Kars-4-Kids and Oorah.

Comments

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I hope they are forced to take their damn annoying radio ads off the air.

Not to worry they're not doing a good job at kiruv either. Their camps are filled with wild social misfits.
mintz runs his offices like the Gestapo; overworking the ladies, paying them off the books, interogating them for lack of loyalty, and then firing them at will with no unenployment. Much like Rubashkin minus the immigration issues.

That's really sad, Shmarya.

BTW, did anyone else think "children of all flavors" sounded kinda pedophilic?

Kars4Kids is an embarassment to Judaism and to Jews. I hope Kars4Kids is more widely exposed for their misleading and disgusting deceptions, and that they get enough of a bad reputation for these deceptions that people around the country will avoid donating cars to them.

Mintz says Kars4Kids was not trying to hide anything behind the multiple charities. Joy for Our Youth was the original name of the organization founded in 2000 to support Jewish youths. But Kars4Kids turned out to be catchier.

What a load of crap. If they wanted to, they could have just changed the legal name from "Joy for Our Youth" to "Kars4Kids". They did NOT want to, obviously, because they are trying to hide from the general public that 99.9% of their "help" to kids is missionizing (they call it "mentoring") them to Ultra-Orthodoxy.

How many people are going to dig and dig and dig to get to the bottom of this web of deception? Most people say "Oh, the money goes for kids? Good. Just take my car and give me a tax break." If they advertised it for what it really is - missionizing of Jewish youth and their families - then people would call their own religious charities, or they would call secular organizations which give their charity to everyone and anyone regardless of ethnicity or religion.

Oorah and "Joy for 'Our' Youth" - only seems to care about making Jewish youth Orthodox, and if disadvantaged Jewish kids or their parents are not interested in becoming Orthodox or religious - do they get any help or any of the "mentors" that Eli Mintz is "so proud of"? Well, why don't you have some poor impoverished, inner city, non-Jewish kids calling Oorah to find out.

The big joke is that they are trying to missionize, and in the process, are making a big Chillul Hashem - a really bad name for Jews and for G-d - as is clear from this article.

Anyway, Eli Mintz who runs "Oorah" is clearly very clever, as is obvious from his many fundraising techniques. But with "Kars4Kids" and "Joy for Our Youth" engaged in these deceptions, I would venture to guess that the shit hasn't finished hitting the fan for "Oorah" or these other organizations.

And watch for many more of these kinds of deceptive practices as the Ultra-Orthodox yeshivas churn out hundreds and thousands of American born boys who graduate from high school yeshivas without the ability to read or write English on a 5th grade level.

But they know the ins and outs of Talmud and Gemara learning. And they can rationalize away any ethicaly questionable misdeed with a little thumb dipping and stretching of the truth. And their "holy" "spiritual" leaders are supporting all of this by looking away and pretending it doesn't exist.

Anyway, Kars4Kids is an embarassment to Judaism and to Jews. I hope Kars4Kids is more widely exposed for their misleading and disgusting deceptions, and that they get enough of a bad reputation for these deceptions that people around the country will avoid donating cars to them.

I am involved in oorah and can say that it is a wonderful organization.

In what way is it wonderful? In that loser volunteer singles get to hook up after hours?

I'm a loser single. Where may I sign up?

yeah this is bad or for the frumma. i also never got that free vacation. I didn't think much of it at the time, those offers are always bogus, maybe they have fine print about it, it may be capitalism but its very bad.

"The few kind acts it does for non-Jews are really done for Kars-4-Kids' and Oorah's own ulterior motives. It is really selfishness, as the Tanya or several other hasidic works would say about the kindness on non-Jews to Jews – except in reality as we know it today, the opposite is true, as Kars-4-Kids so clearly shows."

no argument with the incredible sleezyness of the organization, the fact that it reflects poorly on orthodox jews. but dont hang this one on the tanya or any other hasidic text. oorah is a lakewood/mitnagdic organization. they may have their own racist contempt of gentiles, but it has nothing to do with hasidism.

When is someone going to follow the money of the Friendship Circle?

I'd like the person who voices the "jingle" in their radio ads to be publicly identified.

"I guess they figure they wouldn't be as successful if people knew what was really going on."

They have got to be kidding. Here in America, they actually believe that people would not give if they knew that Jews are the recipients. Nah!

KJ, do you actually think if it was framed as exclusively a charity for Jewish children, run by Haredim, with no interest in helping anyone else, nonJews would donate their cars there as opposed to giving to some less exclusive, less religiously-focused charity, or selling it to a used car dealer?

cause I'm so philosemitic I even got circumcised at day 8, eat kasher, keep shabbath, and study torah and talmudh a couple hours a day. and I wouldn't donate to Kars4Kids over another charity knowing the information they willingly declined to publicize.

If I were a random secular American, `al aHath kamma wekhamma.

Now, knowing of the deceit, I hope no one rewards their dishonesty except with a nice government fine. Deceptive advertising is forbidden, right there in babha meSi`a (4th pereq, penultimate mishna). any "Kiruv" resulting from such a semi-scam is a miSwa habba'ah be`abhera at best. At best. Personally I never thought taking kids and making them haredi was a miSwa anyway; all statistical data indicates that this simply reduces the probability that they'll grow up to be honest in their business dealings.

Maybe instead of complaining about people's impressions, you should be complaining about that.

i realy feel bad for all of you! your all so deprived you probly grew up in some hasidic family and became rebelious to such a far extent! i can promise that the typical non jew couldn't give a damn that oorah is being successful, ur all just jealous and extremely deprived, i wish you all alot of help!!!

AS, why do you spell it MiSwa?

I see that Shmarya is having fun with kiruv organizations again. He is just jealous since they do so a damn good job but left him in the dust.

I think I have an objective take on this, as follows: This organization has been written up in the St. Louis papers in 2005 and now in the Twin Cities paper, and I'm sure others as well. I guess the Mintzes are slow to get the point. I am not well versed on the law but I assume that technically what they are doing is fine. However, as Torah Observant Jews I believe they have an obligation to disclose far more than they do. Therefore, what they are doing is not fine. I ask that the Mintzes and their attorney Ronald Coleman take heed of my comments. The fact is that each time this story hits the press, it is a chillul Hashem. At the end of the day, it is clear they are trying to hide what the money actually is used for.

Adams,

I transliterate it miSwa because I pronounce a Saade as an emphatic "S", not the israelian "tz" that's just one of many germanic phonemes that modern jewry confuses with Hebrew/Semitic phonemes. and I pronounce the sixth letter of the alphabet as "waw," consistent with every other semitic language (though Vav is legitimate as a later development possibly already present by the time of the Tiberian Masoretes).

These pronunciations are both attested in se`adya ga'on's Kitāb Faṣīḥ Lughat al-ʿIbrāniyyīn (see, that's transliteration that takes effort), though they're pretty obvious to someone who studies any semitic linguistics...

Shmarya:

This is precisely why I reacted cynically to the coat giveaway. My complaint in the comment on that post were precisely this. While I appreciate your charity in commending them for the forced gesture, their charity is non-existent. They are, because of this masquerade, among the worst of the worst. Societal leeches with no regard for anyone not qualified as "Jew". We love you(r money), haBriot! They confirm one persistent negative stereotype of Jews.

I knew it. Wish my J-dar was not so attuned to unfortunate stereotypes (you can take the boy out of the shtetl but you can't take the "is it good for the Jews?" out of the boy.)

The third time I heard that jingle I had to turn it off out of sheer embarrassment.

Please don;t let it be the kind of scam I think it is, I thought.

And it is.

i can promise that the typical non jew couldn't give a damn that oorah is being successful

Posted by: chushka | December 25, 2011 at 08:33 PM

You don't know any non-Jews, who are you kidding.

Donation is a way to complete the willing of god, it is pool of connecting in social life, hopes of hopeless and chance to do better for society, countries and upcoming generation.
We are working with diyafoundation for propagate welfare of the underprivileged society with special emphasis on slum children, handicapped, aged; infirm and destitute with donate charities.

I think that someone should copy this article and mail it out to the frum community. As most people in the frum world probably don't read this site and others that expose oorah for what it really is, we need to reach them directly. So much money is poured in from good people who believe that oorah is legit and really it is for the most part a scam

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