Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The OU, UJC and Charity Allocations

I was alerted to this article, which reports the following. The OU had collected money specifically to help Jews in northern Israel recover from the shelling during the recent war in Lebanon. The OU then pooled the money it raised together with money raised by the UJC for similar purposes. However, the UJC also uses the money to help Israeli Arabs. When the OU learned about this, it asked that its money be segmented and only allocated to Israeli Jews. I was asked what I thought about this.

On the one hand, the Gemara (Gittin 61a) rules that we give charity to non-Jews because it is the ways of peace. Whether that means that we do it to avoid being accused of discriminating and thereby causing bad feelings, or because the ways of the Torah are peaceful and this is considered a praiseworthy act, is a matter of contemporary dispute. Regardless, in general we certainly advocate in giving charity to non-Jews (Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 151:12, 251:1).

However, if money is donated for a specific cause then it cannot always be diverted to a different charity. Specifically, the Rema (Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 256:4) writes that if someone donates money and specifies that it is for a specific poor person or for the poor people of a specific city, then it may not be used for someone or anything else. The Shakh (no. 10) explains that the designated group of poor people acquire this money immediately upon its being donated. Therefore, giving it to someone else is stealing the money of the designated recipients.

In the case above, it seems to me that the money was raised by the OU for Israeli Jews who live in northern Israel. For better or for worse, it seems clear to me that at least some (if not most) of those who donated the money intended it to go specifically to Jewish areas and would object if it went to areas where no Jews lived. If so, then it seems to me that the OU is correct to object to the UJC's allocation of funds. To surprise the donors like that, when the money was raised for a specific purpose and already belongs to its intended recipients, might be considered misappropriation of charitable funds and be a form of theft. KNLAD (so it seems in my humble opinion).

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