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October 12, 1984 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-10-12

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24 • Friday, Octob4r 12, 1984


The Wiesenthal
Center's Holocaust
Memorial Plaza in-
cludes six black ma-
jestic sculptures,
each symbolically
shattered at the top,
and a marble slab in-
scribed with the
names of concentra-
tion camps.

petitors say the Center has the best Jewish direct mail
lists in the country.
It is an expensive way to raise funds — buying and ren-
ting lists and mailing fetters to up to four million families
a year. Two years ago, for example, the Center spent $1.6
million on direct mail and renewals, employing the top,
Virginia-based public relations firm of Craver, Matthews
and Smith.
In all, the Wiesenthal Center raised $5.8 million that
year, but it also spent $5.1 million. Which leads observers
to ask: what do they do with all of that money?
"It takes a lot of money to make a lot of money," said
one Wiesenthal Center official.
Rabbi Hier says that about 16 percent of the overall
budget goes for direct mail fund-raising. Experts disagree
over whether that figure is a lot to be spending or quite
Approximately $700,000 raised was set aside for sav-
ings, and again experts disagreed over whether saving
about 14' per dollar was overly restrained for a non-profit
Taxes are filed jointly by the three divisions of Yeshiva
University of Los Angeles, which is comprised of the
Simon Wiesenthal Center, Yeshiva University and Yeshiva
High School. The biggest expense, according to the 1982
tax returns, was for the high school and post-high school
yeshiva programs serving 260 students. More than $2.3
million went for those programs.
There are those who resent the Wiesenthal Center
because they feel it is a "front" for the high school. Prof.
Arnold Band of UCLA, who is Orthodox, feels the Center
is diverting funds and attentions away from the need for
"a real yeshiva" in Los Angeles on a par with the local
Conservative and Reform branches. "I'd like to see a real,
viable branch of Yeshiva University out here, one that of-
fers smicha (ordination). It should be structured around
the Talmud, not the Holocaust. One gets the impression
here that the yeshiva sneaks in the back door while the
Wiesenthal Center is up front."
Critics say the yeshiva is small and that ironically, its
students and faculty are much further to the right in terms
of Orthodoxy than Yeshiva University's traditional cen-
trist position. "Rabbi her is an avid Zionist but more than
a few of the rabbis in his yeshiva are not," says one in-
sider. "He likes to say that he focuses on the Holocaust to
get people back to Judaism but he never uses that in his
publicity material because it's not sexy enough."
Officials of Yeshiva University in New York have sought
to distance themselves and their institution from the Los
Angeles school, and Dr. Norman Lamm, president of
Yeshiva University, declined to be interviewed on this sub-
ject. Privately, officials of Yeshiva University in New York
say they are embarrassed by some of Rabbi Hier's actions
and methods but that there is little they can do to con-
trol him, expecially since he is so successful at fund raising.
Rabbi Heir emphasized that no monies sent to the
Wiesenthal Center are used by YULA. "We keep the funds
for the Holocaust Center and the yeshiva totally separate,"
he said. "No money donated to the Center goes to the ye-
"But I have had success convincing contributors to the
Holocaust Center to support our yeshiva, too. I explain
to them the connection between Jewish survival and
Jewish education. It's like when you get married: at first
you think you are just marrying your partner, but gradual-
ly you learn to care about your partner's family. Here,
too," he continues with a smile, "I tell people I want them


i41 • f>.,



to get to know our whole mishpacha (family)," referring
to the yeshiva as well as the Center.
His success has been formidable. The Belzberg family
alone has contributed $1.5 million to YULA in addition
to $3 million to the Center's new building complex. Others,
on a smaller scale, have started out giving only to the
Center and later-given to the yeshiva as well.
"These people come to me," said Rabbi Hier, "and say
`where do you need the money most?' and I tell them the
yeshiva. It allows the yeshiva to survive."
Other major expenses for the Wiesenthal Center in 1982
included $1.6 million in salaries. Rabbi Hier, at $73,000,
was the highest paid employee but Simon Wiesenthal
received more than $90,000 in consulting fees. More than
$500,000 went for printing and publications, $300,000 for
professional fund-raising fees, $250,000 in consultation fees
and almost $400,000 for the Center and "Genocide," the
film which cost a total of $3 million to produce.
This past year the Center raised more than $2 million
through its national direct mail campaign, said Rabbi Hier,
with much of that total coming from $5 and $10 donations
from all over the country.
"For all that money and all the noise they make, they
have little to show for it," says UCLA professor Deborah
Lipstadt, voicing the argument heard among scholars and
Jewish organizational professionals.
"They have 'Genocide' and their museum," says another
academic, "and a lot of p.r. But what have they ac-
complished in terms of scholarship or research?"
The accusations are most often muffled by anonymity,
in part because critics feel "you can't win when you take
on a sacred cow," as one put it, and in part because Rab-
bi Hier has a reputation for "playing hardball." One Los
Angeles Jewish community official said Rabbi Hier sought

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