The Red Cross & Other Charities

Dr. Gerhard Falk

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Red Cross - Double Cross


    The 2002 Foreign Aid Bill passed by Congress this year includes a provision that the $8 million normally appropriated to the International Committee of the  Red Cross be withheld unless “…….the  Magen David Society of Israel is not being denied participation in the activities of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.”

    This effort by Congress to display the anti-Jewish bigotry of the International Red Cross was underscored on October 27 of this year when Dr. Bernadette Healy resigned as CEO of the American Red Cross. She did so in part because the board of governors of the American Red Cross disagreed with her decision to cut off dues to the International Red Cross because of their refusal to admit Israel to membership.

     Since then the board has made conflicting statements concerning that issue. It is clear, however, that the Muslim countries are principally responsible for the exclusion of Israel at this time. At earlier times, the International Red Cross showed an equal prejudice against Jewish interests. Long before the Muslim countries organized the Red Crescent Movement, Israel was denied membership in the International Red Cross on the grounds that the cross was not used in the emblem of the Jewish state. Then, however, the Muslims were admitted so that the crescent was suddenly “kosher” but the Magen David was still excluded.

   The anti-Jewish attitude of the International Red Cross is not new. Years ago, during the Holocaust, the International Red Cross “whitewashed” Nazi brutality. In 1943, that organization sent a delegation to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt at the invitation of the Nazi government. There they “inspected” the camp and agreed with the Germans that this camp was an “ideal suburb” including libraries, swimming pools, recreational facilities and other amenities. The Nazis actually made a movie called “Der Führer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt” or “The Leader (Hitler) donates a town to the Jews”.  This farce shows Jews enjoying the fun city of Theresienstadt.

   The truth was, of course, that the movie was an act performed by SS troopers and some Jews forced to play in an orchestra. This movie was then shown to the German population at home. The Red Cross investigators knew all this, of course, but pretended that the Jews were well treated and issued such a report to their headquarters. In short, the International Red Cross permitted the Nazi brutes to sell their propaganda to whoever wanted to believe it.

    Now, the resignation of Dr. Healy was not only prompted by the dispute concerning the Magen David Adam. Dr. Healy was forced to resign in part because the Red Cross under her leadership had withheld money given them for the relief of the relatives of those murdered in the September 11 attack. This was not the first time nor the only instance of the diversion of contributions given in good faith for one purpose only to be used for another purpose or wasted altogether by a charitable organization.   In fact, that happens all the time. It is for that reason that contributors ought to be careful in giving to those who ask.

   We need to understand that one half to ninety percent of funds solicited for charitable causes are kept by the professional solicitors. In short, most of the money requested and given never goes to those in need. It goes to the fund raisers.

    Last month I collected in an envelope all the requests for money I received in my office and at home. I then added the total requested and found that if I had given only the minimum asked of me, then my entire income for that month would have been given away. That being the case, we can see that fund raising on behalf of true charitable organizations and a whole lot of spurious collectors is so ubiquitous that we are obliged to discern the difference between the honest and the dishonest among them.

   My collection of these requests reminded me of the years when I lived on the “other side”. I will never forget how I was refused food by a rabbi who was running a kosher dining room at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where fate had sent me. I was starving and needed to eat. But that “man of the cloth” couldn’t let me have a piece of bread. The dining room at the Hillel Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania feeds students who pay for the food in advance. I, of course, could not pay. So he tossed me out when I begged for food.

   In that same city I was refused entry into a “shul” on Yom Kippur because I didn’t have a ticket and could not pay for a “ticket”. “If you want to go to a theater you have to have a ticket and you need one here. If you don’t have a ticket, get out” was the message when I came to the door of that synagogue.

   No, the Jewish organizations helped no one when we needed it and the non-Jewish organizations didn’t know us either. Things may be better now. We know that the Russian Jews who came here the past few years have been helped and are being helped by the UJA. We know we now have “meals on wheels” and other devices for the alleviation of misery among us. Yet, those of us who remember the 1940’s can hardly forget our isolation and the rejection which was displayed towards us by all those who now want our money.

   Even now, there are professional Jews whose bigotry against erstwhile “survivors” and immigrants is is so profound that they cannot bring themselves to so much as greet us or answer our greetings. This makes us remember how our German neighbors suddenly failed to “see” us after the Nazi takeover and could not remember who we were even if we had known each other's families for generations. Evidently, some  Jews like to perpetuate the Nazi tradition.

   To that the Talmud comments: (Bava Metzia 58b) “Let a man throw himself into a fiery furnace rather than shame his neighbor in public” and (Bava Metzia 59a) “One who shames his neighbor in public has no share in the world to come.”

   The German philosopher Immanuel Kant added: “Act as if that you are about to do will become universal law as soon as you have done it.” Let us keep this in mind this Shabbat and always.

Shalom u’vracha.

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