Thursday, May 27, 2010

Are the people running Areivim con men, or well intentioned morons?

Areivim, for those who are late to our story, is an OJ organization that collects money from its living members to pay a death benefit to the children of members who have died. Our friend Yanky Horowitz has lately been trying to get a handle on how the organization works and who manages it. He has now published four posts on the subject.

After reading the articles, the commentary, and the things said behind the scenes by my crew of insiders, gossipers, and know-it-alls, I have concluded that the people in charge of Areivim are con men, plain and simple. Here's the evidence, as reported by Rabbi Horowitz:

  • They won't say who their posek is
  • They won't name any of the "hundreds" of Rabbis who supposedly not only endorse the program but are "investing time, energy and heart in this project, one which has become a priority to them."
  • They won't provide a full list of board members, and 3 of the 16 people who were named contacted Rabbi Horowitz after their names were linked to the organization to deny any involvement.
  • They won't name the people who run the office.
  • They won't name the actuaries, lawyers and accountants who allegedly signed of on the program
  • They sidestepped questions about payments, fees and commissions.
  • They wouldn't explain how investment or disbursement decisions will be made
  • They wouldn't explain how grievances are addressed, or what is done if someone feels they've been mistreated
  • They wouldn't explain how the lavish advertisements are paid for (when Rabbi H. asked, the reply was "To the Chusheve donors there is still a lot of open slots for donation of this project we could have done much more with more help.")

Instead, the organization keeps insisting that everything they plan to do has been blessed by nameless rabonim. The expectation, I believe, is that our brains will shut off as soon as we hear the word "rabbi". (This works on Bray by the way)  Too bad for Areivim,  but this trick doesn't work on Yanky Horowitz. He is encouraging everyone to cancel their Areivim subscriptions, and to stay as far away as possible from the organization.

That said, I do have one small complaint about Rabbi H's treatment of these swindlers. He is too darn nice. On his own blog, he prints evidence that Areivim lied about their endorsements, and lied about their board members, yet he speaks of the founders in glowing terms even as he tells everyone to stay clear. For instance:
Areivim has done an outstanding job of raising public consciousness about the matter of uninsured members of our community and the need to find a better way to do things other than the heartbreaking campaigns that regularly occur – and for this we all owe them a debt of gratitude... The two members of Kol Yisrael Areivim’s leadership with whom I met are polite, energetic people who are clearly motivated to help the klal – and are genuinely interested in receiving feedback. They have both invested enormous amounts of time and effort in this project and have been wildly successful in raising awareness about a critical subject.

What is that about? Why is he treating these shysters like well intentioned morons -- people who tried to do something nice, but carried away - when its clear they have lied and obfuscated?

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