February 24, 2005

by Reb Yudel
Reb Yudel's Assignment Desk: The Forward offered a couple more clues to JTS mystery; here are some more questions that need answering

Eric Greenber, in the Forward:
The Jewish Theological Seminary of America's new chief financial officer has resigned after just three months on the job at a time when the institution, the flagship of Conservative Judaism, is facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis.

The departure of CFO Richard Bengloff marks the second resignation in four months of a top seminary financial officer. Longtime seminary controller S. David Shapiro abruptly resigned his post November 9, 2004, only weeks before news stories disclosed that JTS was struggling to cover tens of millions of dollars in debt borrowed from undisclosed sources.

Some followup questions still to be answered:
  1. According to the article, the JTS endowment is not much more than twice annual operating expenses. Is that typical or appropriate?
  2. How much of the endowments are general, and how much are restricted?
  3. Is it legal to borrow against endowments?
  4. What have been general endowment returns over the past decade, both before and after the stock market boom?
  5. Who is involved in the JTS budgeting process?
  6. What do JTS board members think about this?
  7. Are there any scenarios in which this situation could be the result of criminal malfeasance?
  8. Are any board members liable?
  9. Are there any board members who have dropped off the board who might speak?
  10. Are there any board members still on the JTS board who might speak?
  11. Why have operating expenses increased so much?
  12. Why was fundraising not able to keep up with operating expenses?
  13. How does the JTS fundraising record compare to that of other Jewish institutions in the past decade?
  14. Who oversees JTS fundraising, both on staff and the board?
  15. Who are the people, on staff and on the board, who actually see the budget and signed off on the debt?
  16. Have there been any budget cutbacks?
  17. Do the cutbacks impact on the institution?
  18. What percent of revenue / expenses are covered by tuition?
  19. Are board members responding to the crisis by donating more?
  20. Has there been any emergency fundraising drive within the Conservative rabbinate?
  21. Who signed off on the decision (first reported by Debra Nussbaum Cohen in the Jewish Week) to change the institutions 501c3 status so as to avoid IRS reporting requirements?
More legwork and less time with the JTS communications department might bring up some answers to these questions. I, alas, have no inside info on any of these points, but would love to hear from those who do. TrackBack

The Forward is incorrect about one thing S. David Shapiro did not leave JTS to go to a NJ Yeshiva-he became Executive Director of HAFTR-a South Shore Long Island MO Institution.

Posted by: ANON at February 25, 2005 9:26 AM
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