An Israeli charity supported by Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind has come under fire from a rabbinic human rights group for allegedly offering prostitutes in exchange for housing in crowded Jerusalem.
Non-profit Ateret Cohanim is accused of trying to entice Arab homeowners in the holy city to sell their property to Jewish residents, according to a recent report in Haaretz.
The group’s chairman, Matityahu Dan, was caught on tape offering a Palestinian property owner a prostitute and Viagra, Haaretz said. But the recording is 20 years old, the paper added.
“You want a girl? How many?” Dan says in the tape.
Ateret Cohanim has a Manhattan-based fundraising arm with strong ties to the Hikind family.
Since 1999, Hikind, a Democrat, has given Ateret Cohanim more than $ 43,000 from his campaign kitty, including $ 3,500 in 2017, records show.
“I try to help them every single year and hope to do more in the future,” Hikind said Wednesday.
His wife, Shani, serves as the nonprofit’s executive vice president.
The rabbinic human rights organization, T’ruah, asked the Internal Revenue Service to suspend the tax exempt status for the nonprofit, citing the alleged prostitute offer.
“Offering women in exchange for property violates both Jewish law and all moral codes, as well as the laws of the State of Israel and of the United States,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah.
“It is unacceptable both for a U.S. tax exempt organization to support such behavior and for a New York State elected official to support such practices out of his campaign funds.”
T’ruah also filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections regarding Hikind’s use of campaign funds .
Under state law, elected officials can use campaign funds to donate to a nonprofit. But lawmakers are prohibited from donating to a nonprofit controlled by a family member.
The veteran Assemblyman has long argued his wife does not control American Friends of Ateret Cohanim.
TOPSHOT – Israeli flags fly near the Dome of the Rock in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on December 5, 2017.
(THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
“She does not run organization,” said Hikind’s spokesman, Yehudah Meth. “She’s a fundraiser.”
T’ruah points out that Shani Hikind is listed as the organization’s only paid staffer, earning $ 80,012, according to 2016 tax documents.
Her husband said the nonprofit pays for security for families living in Jerusalem’s Old City, and is not involved in buying Arab homes.
“What the New York office does is not connected to that,” he said.
The group was created in 1987 to “encourage and promote the study and observance of Jewish religious traditions and culture,” according tax documents.
Critics say that involves buying Arab homes in East Jerusalem to push them out of the disputed area.
“Ateret Cohanim has long used methods that include bribery, straw companies, and the exploitation of legal technicalities in order to achieve ownership of Palestinian homes,” T’ruah charges.
Shani Hikind slammed the Haaretz report.
“It’s outrageous,” she said. “Unquestionably one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen.”
Her husband contends T’ruah’s objections to the nonprofit are ideologically driven because the organization “is a radical pro-Palestinian (group) opposed to Jews living in the Old City of Jerusalem.”
Jacobs denies that.
“T’ruah is deeply committed to the future of the State of Israel, and to the safety of Jews there and elsewhere,” she said. “We support the right of Jews to live in the Old City of Jerusalem, where Jews have lived for thousands of years.”
“We do not support the use of prostitution, bribes, straw companies, and questionable legal maneuvers to push Palestinians out of their homes,” she added.
“These methods constitute violations of human rights, and also hamper the achievement of a peace agreement that will make Israelis safer in the long term.”