Shavei Under Review: Status In Jeopardy
Updated: Dec 31, 2023
(November 1, 2022) In a letter last week to the Tel Aviv law firm of Dror, Menchel, & Weinstein, the Justice Ministry’s Department of Non-Profit Associations confirmed rumors that Shavei Israel’s nihul takin or “proper conduct” certification is under review. Without such certification, non-profit organizations are ineligible for government contracts, as well as for tax-deductible donations.
The Justice Ministry’s letter was sent in response to a query by the law firm, representing Degel Menashe, regarding Shavei Israel’s status in the wake of a ruling last April by Tel Aviv district court judge Naftali Shilo that Shavei’s chairman Michael Freund forged his ex-wife Sarah Green’s signature on Shavei documents. The forged signatures, some on papers submitted to the Department of Non-Profit Associations’ Registry Office, were meant to give the impression that Green had been active in the organization’s affairs. The presumable motive for this was to counter Green’s contention, currently the subject of a civil suit, that her former husband embezzled 50 million shekels (15 million dollars) from a family bank account and transferred it to Shavei’s coffers without her knowledge.
The request for Judge Shilo’s ruling came from both Green and the Registry Office. The Department of Non-Profit Associations’ letter, signed by Batsheva Weizmann, its Assistant Director, said in full:
“1. The verdict of the Tel Aviv district court in case 47061-07-20 – Sarah Green vs. the non-profit association Shavei Israel – is indeed known to us.
“2. On June 15, 2022, the association appealed the district court verdict to the High Court of Justice (Case No. 4045/22). Since this litigation is still unresolved, the verdict in question cannot be considered final. The Registry Office is a respondent to the appeal and will state its views when summations are made.
“3. The question of the association’s proper conduct certification is under review by the Registry Office, which will take into consideration all the circumstances of the case and the appeal now pending. Its position will be presented, as has been said, within the framework of its reply to the appeal.”
According to the High Court of Justice’s posteddocket, the appeal of “Shavei Israel vs. Sarah Green and the Registry Office of Non-Profit Associations” is scheduled for a hearing on January 23, 2023.
Although the ministry’s reply to the law firm’s letter is carefully worded, the law provides for cancelation of certification when a non-profit organization’s conduct is deemed seriously flawed, and a resort to forged documents would certainly constitute such a case. If Shavei’s appeal to the High Court is turned down, the Registry Office could well take such a step. Alternately, it is empowered to impose less drastic sanctions, such as a fine or a requirement to present a plan for corrective policies. Such a plan, one imagines, would have to include Michael Freund’s resignation
If stripped of its certification, Shavei Israel would be barred from working with the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption in anything having to do with the Aliyah of the B’nei Menashe. It would also face great difficulty in raising funds from donors, which could cripple its ability to function.