Synagogue raised £110k by ‘exploiting’ French terror attacks
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Synagogue raised £110k by ‘exploiting’ French terror attacks

EXCLUSIVE: One of New York’s most famous shuls accused of “cynically” taking advantage of the 2016 terrorist attacks in France to raise funds for its own use.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

One of New York’s most famous synagogues has been accused of “cynically and opportunistically” exploiting a wave of deadly terrorist attacks across France to raise funds for their own use.

Park East Synagogue, a Modern Orthodox establishment located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, has been the subject of much attention in recent weeks after its senior rabbi, the 91-year-old Arthur Schneier, dismissed 34-year-old assistant rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt amid claims of tensions between the pair.

Now, with rumours and counter-rumours about the shul’s affairs openly circulating, some congregants have also spoken out about continued anger over an “Annual Benefit Concert” held “in solidarity with the French Jewish community” in 2016.

With its photograph of Paris and the Eiffel Tower, along with two cantors leading prayers, the advert for Park East’s 12th annual concert appeared to indicate the event would benefit French Jewry at a time when they were reeling from the devastating terror attacks such as the one on a kosher supermarket that left four dead.

Promotion for the benefit concert had a picture of the Eiffel Tower

Jewish News understands the event raised well over £110,000 with tickets costing up to £50 each. But a spokesperson for Park East Synagogue has now confirmed that rather than raising funds to help the French Jewish community, the money from ticket sales “went on to support the continued growth of our synagogue cantorial programme”.

The synagogue statement said the Jewish community in France during the time of the concert had “suffered through a horrible antisemitic terrorist attack which sent shockwaves throughout the world”.

But Jewish News has spoken with members of the Park East who alleged the synagogue’s leadership “cynically” and “opportunistically” used events in France to maximise fundraising. One individual revealed he invited two French-speaking friends along to the event, making them pay for their tickets, on the impression the money would be donated to a charity
in France.

“After they had purchased their tickets I thought I would contact Park East to ask where the money was going to in France, so I could relay the news to friends,” said one former shul member.

“When I asked this person, who had a senior position at the shul at the time, he was honest with me. He admitted it was not going to any organisation in France but to Park East.”

Another synagogue-goer told Jewish News: “The event was in very poor taste and made me feel very embarrassed.”

Jewish News attempted to speak with Schneier to to get his personal account of the synagogue’s activities three times over a two week period but he did not respond to our requests.

The synagogue said: “When we put on our annual concert in solidarity with a certain party, we do not do so to raise funds for that party unless specifically notated in the invitation for
the event.

“We secured the guest performance of a world-renowned French cantor to show the French community that we stand by them, so they knew they did not have to suffer through this tragedy alone.

“We did so in order to show the world that we are united, as Jews, even across an entire ocean. We have done events in the past with Israel, France and memorial events remembering the Holocaust and Kristallnacht.

“Every year we choose a different theme to pay tribute to in either solidarity, in memorial, or in celebration. Funds raised from this specific event went to support the growth of our cantorial programme.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments