The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the New York City Jewish community’s scandal-plagued anti-poverty arm, is reportedly considering hiring a Chabad rabbi to replace outgoing CEO David Frankel, who was brought in to clean up the organization last year but was apparently forced out because he was trying to do just that.
Top Candidate For CEO Of Scandal-Plagued Anti-Poverty Charity Said To Be Chabad Rabbi
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the New York City Jewish community’s scandal-plagued anti-poverty arm, is considering hiring a Chabad rabbi to replace outgoing CEO David Frankel, the Forward reported.
Frankel, a former Wall Street executive who was also a former deputy commissioner of New York City’s Department of Finance, was brought in late last summer after his predecessor, William E. Rapfogel, was compelled to resign after his decades long embezzlement of millions of dollars from the charity became known.
Rapfogel, who is Modern Orthodox, pleaded guilty to felony theft charges and is serving a 3 1/3 to 10-year sentence in a state prison.
Rapfogel’s co-conspirators include the Met Council’s former insurance broker, prominent Breslov hasid Joseph “Yossi” Ross; haredi Rabbi David Cohen, the Met Council’s CEO before Rapfogel who continued on with the charity as a paid on-staff consultant when Rapfogel was hired two decades ago; and the Met Council’s longtime CFO, Herbert Friedman. All have pleaded guilty.
Frankel was brought in to provide both stability for the charity and fig leaf to allow city and state money, which was frozen because of the thefts, to be released for the charity’s use.
But a year after Frankel’s hire it appears New York State is not planning on indicting any other Met Council employees or board members for their possible roles in the multimillion dollar embezzlement scheme, even though some observers continue to believe there was board involvement in the embezzlement.
Government funding to the Met Council was resumed last fall after Frankel’s hiring.
Frankel was reportedly was working on a restructuring of the agency when he suddenly decided to leave the charity, and was in reality likely forced out.
Frankel, who is not Orthodox, reportedly clashed with local Jewish Community Councils – which are disproportionately under Orthodox and haredi control – and with the Met Council’s board – a board that was chastised by regulators for lax oversight and other serious governance issues in the wake of the Rafogel embezzlement.
The Forward inaccurately reports that the Chabad rabbi being considered as Frankel’s replacement, Moshe Wiener, would be the Met Council’s first ultra-Orthodox CEO. In reality, Rabbi David Cohen was the Met Council’s first haredi CEO and is the man who, along with Breslov hasid Joseph Ross, began the embezzlement scheme that eventually brought down Rapfogel, Ross, Cohen, and Friedman, and which almost brought down the Met Council itself.
Wiener is reportedly the head of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island. He is also the author of a book, “Hadras Ponim — Zokon,” that argues that all Jewish men must have full beards and are forbidden from shaving – or even trimming – their beards.
According to the Forward, under the terms of the settlement between the New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Met Council reached in December, the Met Council is required to get the approval of Schneiderman and other regulators for all top-level hires.
“The possible appointment of a Lubavitch head of a major Jewish organization signals the success of Lubavitch in crossing boundaries between Orthodoxy and the rest of the Jewish world,” Steven Cohen, a leading sociologist of the American Jewish community, told the Forward.
But Cohen’s analysis is likely flawed, and Weiner almost certainly was chosen as a leading candidate for reasons that go past Chabad's ability to cross communal boundaries.
Weiner was likely chosen because the JCCs and other Orthodox factions within the Met Council need to maintain control over an agency that disproportionately funnels money to their communities, even with regard to actual need, and Weiner is the only credible candidate likely able to both win the job and reach that goal.
There have long been complaints that Jews who live outside large Jewish enclaves but who still live in the city and therefore should be served by the Met Council get disproportionately fewer services and less financial support than Jews who live inside large Jewish enclaves that are served by JCCs which are almost always in Orthodox or haredi control – like, for example, Weiner’s. This alleged problem is supposedly further exacerbated if the poor person needing help is not Orthodox or haredi.
There are also unproven allegations of large Met Council food donations to some local charities being sold to food brokers and the cash pocketed, and other related types of illegal diversion of anti-poverty funds.