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November 27, 2015 / 15 Kislev, 5776
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JAFI Bosses Making Record Salaries While Employee Pay Is Cut

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky is a heroic figure in anyone’s book, a survivor of Soviet repression who rose to a position of influence in the Jewish state. As head of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Sharansky presides over a markedly increased aliyah, and an effort to stand ready “as the Jewish world’s first responder to crises both in Israel and around the world” (as the JAFI websire declares). In addition, “these days, the Jewish Agency is redirecting its primary focus toward the greatest challenge we currently face as a people – strengthening the Jewish identity of young Jews in both the Diaspora and Israel.”

Add to that another, less frequently discussed mission: making a lot of money for JAFI officials – not Goldman Sachs kind of money, but way more than most anyone else in the world of Jewish not-for-profits.

According to Haaretz, the unofficial arrangement at the Jewish Agency for Israel of matching the pay of the agency’s head with that of the prime minister of Israel, has been broken by Natan Sharansky, who in 2010 made $214,000, compared with Benjamin Netanyahu’s $164,000 in the same year.

But Sharansky was only number four on the list of high earners in what is officially a Jerusalem-based, Israeli institution. The CEO and president of Jewish Agency International Development (JAID ), the agency’s chief fundraiser, Dr. Misha Galperin who is based in New York, earned $478,000 in 2010, according to JAFI’s IRS report. And that sum was his pay for only seven months, having begun to work for the agency in June of 2010. Galperin’s annual remuneration, including expenses and benefits, should reach $750,000.

Except that a major decrease in donations from the US – due to the financial crisis and the dollar devaluation – supposedly caused the Jewish Agency to take drastic measures earlier this year. The Jewish Agency’s management, together with the employees committee, decided to send all the employees out on mandatory leave for two weeks in August, four days of which were at the expense of the employees’ vacation fund and six days were be taken without pay.

In order to finance the planned mandatory leave the agency is taking cuts from each employee’s monthly salary – one day a month for six months. And the employees’ committee decided to donate $500,000 of its budget to the Jewish Agency.

The Jewish Agency management released a statement last summer, saying: “Many not-for-profit organizations in Israel are collapsing due to the weak dollar which has decreased the extent of contributions. The fact that we work with the poor sectors of society means that we can’t make cuts in our activities.

“The Agency was forced to choose between layoffs and no layoffs and chose, together with the employees’ committee who are also on board, not to lay off employees. We expect an increase in income over the next few years.”

Sources close to the negotiations that took place in early 2010 over Galperin’s pay package explained to Haaretz that Sharansky had agreed with Galperin that he would not lose out financially due to his move from Washington to JAFI’s North American headquarters in New York. But Galperin almost doubled the salary of about $400,000 he was due to make that year as head of the Washington federation. While the base for Galperin’s JAFI salary is half a million dollars, it was padded with an $11,000-a-month rent for his 2,880-square foot townhouse in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood, tuition for his two children at the Hannah Senesh private day school, a car and his pension fund.

According to Haaretz, Galperin’s supporters claim that his salary reflects the norm for CEOs of big U.S. Jewish organizations, but according to The Forward’s annual salary survey of Jewish communal leaders, only one head of a national organization makes more than $750,000, Yeshiva University President Richard Joel, who earned $848,000 in 2010. Next on the Forward’s list is Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who made $722,000. Eight senior executives in Jewish organizations made over half a million dollars in 2010.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

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