An Orthodox Jewish charity in London that operates a voucher system for struggling Jewish families has gone bust, meaning all existing vouchers are now worthless.
Insolvency experts were hired on Tuesday after the Society of Friends of the Torah (SOFT) went administration, despite its most recently published accounts showing that it had a surplus of almost £3 million.
Michael Goldstein of RG Insolvency said the administrators “acknowledge and sympathise with the difficulty this will cause to many within the community”.
He said “all voucher booklets and pre-paid vouchers will no longer be honoured by the charity” and that “any recipients of SOFT charity vouchers will not be able to cash any vouchers that they may hold”.
He added that he was “working with the charity’s trustees and other professional advisers in order to deal with the charity’s financial position as well as to properly investigate the circumstances leading to the current situation”.
The voucher system was based on tax relief. Donors gifted the Golders Green charity an amount under the Gift Aid Scheme, and the charity then recovered the tax upon that gift, thereby increasing the amount available for distribution to recipients.
Each account holder received a voucher book, which enabled them to give to any charity of their choice. In addition, the charity made grants to recognised institutions which it said worked only with the “genuinely poor or needy”.
The charity’s most recent accounts, as published on the Charity Commission’s website showed that it made donations of more than £20.5 million in 2017 and registered a bank surplus of more than £2.8 million. They were audited by Golders Green based Martin+Heller Accountants.
SOFT had eight employees and was part of an umbrella group of charities that included Agudas Israel Community Services, run by Michael Posen, which was named in a BBC File on Four documentary last year which alleged involvement in widespread fraud in the Orthodox community. Agudas denies any wrongdoing.