By Uri Blau, Haaretz Correspondent
American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, a nonprofit organization that sends millions of shekels worth of donations to Israel every year for clearly political purposes, such as buying Arab properties in East Jerusalem, is registered in the
Financing land purchases in
Daniel Luria, chief fund-raiser for Ateret Cohanim in Israel, told Haaretz Sunday that the American organization's registration as an educational entity stemmed from tax considerations.
"We are an umbrella organization that engages in redeeming land," he said. "Our [fund-raising] activity in
Although Ateret Cohanim also operates a yeshiva, Ateret Yerushalayim, in the Muslim Quarter of
American Friends of Ateret Cohanim was founded in
"That's because of the tax issue," Luria said, explaining that due to American law, the American Friends organization "has to be connected in some fashion with educational matters."
He also estimated that 60 percent of Ateret Cohanim's money is raised in the
The Friends organization's most recent return, filed in 2008 for fiscal 2007, shows that it raised $2.1 million in donations that year. Of this, $1.6 million was transferred to Ateret Cohanim in
The remainder was used to cover administrative overhead, including fund-raising expenses and an $80,000 salary for Shoshana Hikind, the American organization's vice president and de facto director, whose husband Dov is a New York state assemblyman and well-known supporter of the Israeli right.
The organization also raised substantial sums in previous years: $1.3 million in 2006, $900,000 in 2005 and about $2 million in 2004.
By comparison, American Friends of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim raised only $189,000 in 2007.
In its IRS returns, American Friends of Ateret Cohanim said its purpose is to "promote," "publicize" and "raise funds for" Ateret Cohanim institutions in
In reality, Ateret Cohanim in
One noteworthy donor to its Friends organization is casino magnate Irving Moskowitz, a well-known supporter of rightist causes, who also owns the Shepherd Hotel in
In response, Ateret Cohanim chairman Mati Dan insisted that the Friends organization "is an independent organization that decides for itself whom to fund." Moreover, he added, "we engage in education constantly ... I don't know what Daniel Luria told you, but we are active in the field of [educational] institutions."
As of press time, no comment had been obtained from the Friends organization.
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