News

HaYoreh’s Next Mission: to Provide its Incubees with Office Space

August 29, 2019

HaYoreh: First Rains, the largest accelerator for nascent NGOs, charities and philanthropies in Israel and the Jewish World, has undertaken a mission to provide its 23 incubees with office space. Additionally, HaYoreh has a waiting list of 20 other NGOs and charities.

Robin Hood Israel Foundation, the founding father of HaYoreh: First Rains, is currently in negotiation with two Israeli banks to rent their unused office space at a discounted rate. This will serve as the Cottrell Center for Social Initiatives.

“We are proud to confirm that thanks to the administrative, marketing and communications support provided by HaYoreh: First Rains, our incubees benefit from reduced NGO running costs. Statistics show that, on average, a nascent NGO can save 42% of its expenditures by collaborating with HaYoreh. The next step is to provide these charities and NGOs with expanded office space, which will permit the newly dedicated Cottrell Center to incubate up to 40 charities and NGOs. In order to make this happen, we need to raise a substantial amount of money, so HaYoreh: First Rains and its incubees would be truly grateful for donations”, says attorney Susan Freiman from the RHIF’s Board of Directors.

If you would like to contribute to this meaningful cause and provide nascents NGOs with the much needed office space, please explore donation options here.

Integrate, Generate, Compensate

August 28, 2019

The "Integrate, Generate, Compensate" project, in association with Robin Hood Israel Foundation, is a pioneering project that aims to integrate poorly represented groups of olim into the Israeli workforce, specifically targeting returning professionals such as mothers, olim over the age of 40, or retirees.

The Israeli government Central Statistics Bureau recently released the 2018 Aliyah statistics which showed that 78% of the olim that arrived from America last year were either pensioners or under the age of 21.

These astounding and unprecedented figures have led to a large disparity in the Israeli workforce. Older olim of Western descent feel undervalued, underappreciated and marganilized. Simultaneously, the Israeli job market continues to overlook the substantial benefits of tapping into a high-caliber workforce of experienced, dedicated professionals.

The "Integrate, Generate, Compensate" program aims to introduce, implement and expand career re-entry programs for returning professionals.

RHIF Is Now Included in the UN Civil Society Database

August 26, 2019

The Robin Hood Israel Foundation is now included in the Civil Society database of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). It has also been approved to attend standing committee meetings of several UN bodies, such as The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), its Emergency Directors Group (EDG) and Operational Policy and Advocacy Group (OPAG).

“We are gratified that Robin Hood Israel Foundation has been included in the DESA's Civil Society database. Our next goal is to receive consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. Being a recognized UN charity will help us in our efforts to improve the welfare of Israeli citizens and strengthen Israeli society”, says lawyer Benjamin Rotstein, representing the Robin Hood Israel Foundation.

The Tel Aviv Facility of HaYoreh Has Been Renamed as The Cottrell Center

August 25, 2019

The Tel Aviv Facility of HaYoreh: First Rains accelerator for nascent NGOs and charities has been rededicated as the Cottrell Center, in memory of Sarah Cottrell whose vision and effort brought the facility to fruition.

Sarah Cottrell (nee Nany Greenwald) passed away on October 22nd after a brave battle with cancer. A Palo Alto, California native, Sarah spent her primary career in London and California developing what has become Xerox’s corporate venture capital arm. She applied that expertise to philanthropic finance, co-authoring the seminal plans at Harvard Kennedy School that became HaYoreh: First Rains, the first incubator/accelerator for nascent charities and NGOs in Israel. She is survived by her son, Aaron, and more than 25 new charities, social causes, and NGOs that could never have existed without her vision and stubborn determination. Her life defined the expression “doing well while doing good”. The HaYoreh: First Rains incubator in Tel Aviv will be rededicated as a Cottrell Center in her memory and honor.”

Barnard College Magazine, June 2019

Israel Homeless Association Rosh Hashana Campaign

September 6, 2018

Following the huge success of the last Passover campaign, Israel Homeless Association has once again successfully distributed Rosh Hashana food packages to just under 400 families in Netanya, Hadera and Rehovot districts.

More than 50 high school students at four schools participated as distribution volunteers.

For the first time, over half the value of the content was donated by the two major Israeli food vendors as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programs, permitting far better quality of foods to the needy.

All families involved in the Israel Homeless Association project are fully employed, but their salaries have fallen beneath the true costs of living in Israel today. The latest report of the Bureau of Central Statistics indicates that as many as 20% of Israeli households with full-time wage earners no longer earn a sufficient salary to meet basic costs of living.

The Jerusalem Post reported on page 1, 06 September 2018, that the government holiday food supplement to needy families this year was 14NIS (just under $4) per family.

*** Please give generously, because the Israeli government isn't. ***

Israel Homeless Association Passover Campaign: A Huge Success!

May 15, 2017

We are happy to report that thanks to the generous donations of friends and supporters from around the world the Passover campaign by our incubee the Israel Homeless Association, was a great success.

In total, 2123 families received a parcel full of kosher groceries:

  • 500 in Beer Sheva
  • 1123 in Southern Tel Aviv
  • 500 in Hadera

The parcels were delivered to working families in need through IHA’s wide distribution network and in collaboration with Yad Eliezer, the Ministry of Social Services in Beer Sheva, Du Kiyum (Two Cultures) and Latet.

Many thanks to all donors for giving needy families in Israel a joyous Passover!

Israel Homeless Association Passover Appeal

April 5, 2017

PLEASE consider a Passover Contribution to our incubee the Israel Homeless Association (IHA).

IHA has over 2500 working families earning less than the government's own stated minimum required monthly income. Passover becomes a particularly frightening time for them, as they cannot begin to afford a festival meal without begging at multiple locations.

We cannot comprehend the humiliation these hard working people face. Let's try to minimize it as much as possible as we enjoy our families and seder feasts.

We can't meet the demand, but we can come as close as resources permit. You can help by donating to our ma’os chitin campaign.

100% of the money you donate will go directly towards helping working families manage the expensive holiday season. Through IHA's wide distribution network, we will provide families with a parcel full of kosher groceries, matzos and wine for the sedarim.

Please donate now to fulfill the special mitzvah of ma’os chitin (donations to purchase matzos for the poor).

Our donation page will walk you through all online or personal check donation alternatives. All donations qualify for IRS tax deduction. When making a donation, please specify you are donating to the Passover Campaign.

Thank you and best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous Passover!

New Friday Nights Lights Program Reaches Over 2,100 Women

March 20, 2017

Over 2,100 women across the US participated in our Friday Night Lights program this past week.

Friday Nights Live program is an initiative by the Robin Hood Israel Foundation to start a new tradition of Friday Night Lights extinguishing darkness and despair in Israel by donating tzedakah (charity) for Israel's neediest.

Thank you to all those who have participated and let the lights shine even stronger this Friday!

Expected Legislative Changes To Israel's Nonprofit Sector In 2017

March 13, 2017

The Knesset is expected to pass significant third-sector legislation this year.

Most significantly, the Knesset is expected to promote a new Law to Promote Specified Nonprofit Activities (NPO law). This law will consist of a comprehensive regulatory framework to impose increased transparency on NGOs (associations/NPOs and public-benefit companies) regarding their activities, especially when the majority of funding is from donations from ‘Foreign Political Entities’. NGOs will have to provide detailed information regarding their corporate governance, relation to their funding sources, its scope of activities, and mode of operation. The law will also prescribe supervisory and enforcement arrangements customized for the different types of NGOs.

Furthermore, the Frisch Committee report and its recommendations concerning making amendments to the tax benefit clause (section 46) of the Income Tax Law are expected to be included in the new legislation. The Israeli Tax Authority is also expected to recommend certain technical-procedural aspects for ascertaining eligibility for the tax benefit clause.

To find out what these legislative changes mean for your nonprofit, please contact us.

HaYoreh Listed On 972VC

February 22, 2017

HaYoreh has been included in 972VC's guide to the Israeli Startup Funding EcoSystem. 972VC is the go-to place for Israeli entrepreneurs and startups to seek out accelerators, incubators, private equity, venture capital and angel investor groups as well as crowdfunding platforms, coworking spaces, venture debts, startup communities and more.

FAQ: Taxation On Charity

February 22, 2017

(Click here to download the FAQ as a PDF)

Israel has charged charitable donors, particularly from certain Anglo-American geographic concentrations, customs, duties and VAT taxes. This practice has gone on for decades. After extensive negotiations with the government as well as some litigation and discovery, with the assistance of some of the largest and most prestigious law firms in Israel, we can now cut through the fog of propaganda and imprecision and establish some unpleasant and inconvenient truths.

1. Why does Israel tax charitable donations?

First and foremost, Israel does not and never has had a law to tax charitable donations in any manner. Regrettably, there exists a long established culture of corruption and the Ministry of Finance concedes that “hundreds of millions of dollars” have been demanded from Anglo-American and European donors who have obligingly paid, ignorant of the fact that the demands were both baseless and illegal. This practice has gone on for at least 40 years if not longer. Apologists for Israel, and for the Jewish federations and philanthropies who paid donor funds to these non-existent and illegal demands occasionally content they are Gift In Kind taxes. It is vital therefore to emphasize and underscore that these excuses are totally false.

2. What is the origin of this fraud?

According to Yaakov Ne’eman of Herzog, Fox & Ne’eman Law offices—and the only man who has served as both Minister of Justice and Minister of Finance—there has been a long standing report to the Minister of Finance on the value of charity donated. So as to bring the report in line with other ministerial reports, a tax equivalent value is calculated. No such tax however actually exist in the tax code, notes Prof. J. Gross of Gross, Kleinhendler, Hodak, Halevy, Greenberg & Co. law offices. Somewhere in the fog of Israeli history the customs authority began demanding actual payment and Diaspora Jews almost never questioned the bills received on official government letterhead.

3. What is the present day position of the Ministry of Finance?

In meetings and negotiations with the Deputy Minister of Finance for Customs and Taxation, as late as January 2017, the Ministry's position remains that while it concedes no such taxes exist nor ever existed, no specific law has been passed in the Knesset preventing demand of such duties. Therefore while not official practice of the Ministry, the Ministry sees no need to explicitly prevent further demands to be made on unsuspecting charities.

4. What is the position of the Prime Minister and Opposition Leadership?

The Parliamentary Attorney of the Prime Minister’s Office categorically rejected the excuse of the Deputy Minister of Finance that customs may be collected on anything not specifically protected by Knesset law. The PMO’s position is that from a parliamentary perspective it is not the responsibility of the Knesset lawmakers to pass 5000 bills covering every theoretical scenario and that Ministry of Finance’s excuse is both facetious and disreputable. To their credit, both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Labor Party leader Ehud Barak provided statements assuring Diaspora donors that this practice will be ended in the next Knesset. Opposition Co-Chairman Isaac Herzog refused to endorse any reform; Opposition Co-Chairman Tzipi Livni was the only Minister of Knesset to explicitly state that “We are entitled to these taxes from Diaspora donors”.

5. Has the tax been uniformly imposed?

Based upon discovery and confession of the Ministry of Finance, it seems that certain “inner circle” charities and organizations have been exempt from these taxation demands. The charities and federations of philanthropies consistently targeted tended to be the smaller, less politically connected entities. Certain countries were also targeted for their cultures of being obedient to government demands and not questioning authority.

6. What acts of retribution were taken against whistleblowers?

The Ministry of Finance engaged in a series of actions against whistleblowers of this matter. Particularly during the tenure years of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Minister of Finance Avraham Hirchson. In the case of Robin Hood Israel Foundation (RHIF), the Ministry of Finance terminated rights to passports (including U.S. passports), rights to bank accounts and driver’s licenses of certain directors after the publication of our Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times.[1] At no time were any charges made or provided, at no time was a court consulted nor assigned. These were unilateral actions outside the judicial system technically permitted by the Ministry against those who “besmirch” the reputation of the State of Israel. It took just over 2 years for Herzog, Fox & Ne’eman Law firm to regain those basic rights for our directors. Parenthetically we note that Prime Minister Olmert and Minister of Finance Hirchson are currently both imprisoned. We do want to underscore that subsequent Ministers of Finance Yuval Steinitz (Likud) and Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) refuse to take any corrective action during their tenure years.

7. Why was our charity charged customs and VAT if a free trade agreement exists with the United States/Canada/United Kingdom etc.?

According to Deputy Minister of Finance for Customs and Taxation, while the Ministry honours Israel’s free trade agreements with the major nations, those exemptions only apply to purchased goods and not charitable donations. In other words, if one wrote on the customs manifest “girl’s dresses”, the items would be exempted but the donating philanthropies wrote instead “charity” which is not an approved item.

RHIF has formally approached the U.S., Canadian and British embassies to request that the term “charity” be included as an item in the next revision of the respective free trade agreements with Israel.

8. What interim agreements has RHIF succeeded in negotiating with Ministry of Finance?

While we leave a long term solution to this fraud to the Knesset and new Minister of Finance Kahalon to unravel, we recognize that is a multiyear process.

As immediate and interim solutions RHIF has secured the following concessions from the Ministry of Finance:

  • Robin Hood Israel Foundation will now be accepted to the “inner circle” of charities with protectia and will not be charged further duties.
  • In an attempt to prevent the embarrassment of class action litigation as well as U.S. Federal Courts, the Ministry is amenable to selected reimbursements for Diaspora donors with acceptable proof of payment. RHIF attorneys will be happy to walk your organisation through the process.
  • We are still taking names of organisations willing to join a class action lawsuit if necessary.

9. I have donated significant sums of my family’s wealth to my local federation of Jewish philanthropies. How did federation’s senior management either not know about this or do anything about it all these decades? Why did they knowingly pay false demands with my donations?

Candidly, there are no good answers to these questions. Federations are comprised with some of the most sophisticated attorneys, accountants, financiers in the Jewish community. It is beyond the realm of credibility to suggest proper due diligence was not repeatedly undertaken. It was a different time and era in Anglo-American Jewry, and we prefer to look forward from here.

[1] G. Pickholz, Biting the Hand that Feeds Them, At Home Abroad Series: An American Expatriate’s Dispatch, Special to the Los Angeles Times, January 2, 2006

StartUpRoots Wants To Bring Salad Bar Growth Stations To Disadvantaged Schools In Israel

January 2, 2017

HaYoreh’s incubee StartUpRoots is now working with Local Grown Salads, an agriculture and technology company that grows and packs green salads using its own self-contained farming units and integrated packing rooms, and Irving Backman, internationally renowned benefactor of sustainability and advanced technology initiatives and leader of the DATT Group (Developers of Advanced Technology Today), to see if it can improve the hydroponic systems currently available in Israel and begin installing salad bar growth stations in disadvantaged schools.

Schools interested in installing the salad bar growth stations will have to teach StartUpRoots science, culinary arts & nutrition, and entrepreneurship curricula developed by its experts and the schools' teachers, as a requirement to receiving the system. This will allow students to learn to respect nature, recognize the benefits of healthy eating, and get to grips with basic business concepts through the miracle of food production from seed to compost.

For more information on StartUpRoots, please visit their website.

Robin Hood Israel Foundation Joins the Global #GivingTuesday Movement

November 18, 2016

RHIF has joined #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities, and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide. Occurring this year on November 29, #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick-off the holiday giving season and inspire people to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.

RHIF has joined #GivingTuesday to bring attention to its Illui Student Loans and Scholarships project, which provides Israeli students with scholarships and a viable option to finance their studies abroad in the form of collectively funded American and UK style student loans.

Years of budget cuts have severely damaged the quality of higher education in Israel. The teacher-student ratio at most of Israel’s major research institutions has more than doubled (from 12.6 students per professor to 26.1) and universities are no longer able to compete for the most qualified professors.[1]

“The budget cuts to higher education cause more damage to Israel’s scientific endeavors and reputation as a ‘start-up nation’ than any BDS boycott can ever hope to achieve. For example, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s most renowned university, was forced to take out a huge loan and had to delay the opening of the school year by two weeks due to a cumulative deficit of about 1.3 billion shekels and a negative cash flow of hundreds of millions of shekels a year,” comments Gary Pickholz, Chairman of RHIF.

On Illui's waiting list, there are currently 50 Israeli students that have been accepted to study degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math at top ranking US universities. As part of its #GivingTuesday campaign, RHIF has pledged to fund the post-graduate degrees of as many wait-listed students as possible, offering the country’s bright young scientists the opportunity to learn from top flight professors.

“We have already funded the post-graduate degrees of seven Israeli students but we are hoping to raise the money to fund scholarships for the 50 students on our waiting list,” Pickholz continues. “RHIF wants to help students obtain the best possible education so that Israelis can compete in world academia and continue to be at the technological and medical forefront.”

About #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is a movement to celebrate and provide incentives to give—the 2016 iteration will be held on November 29, 2016. This effort harnesses the collective power of a unique blend of partners—nonprofits, businesses, and corporations as well as families and individuals—to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. #GivingTuesday inspires people to take collaborative action to improve their local communities, give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they celebrate and help create a better world. #GivingTuesday harnesses the power of social media to create a global movement dedicated to giving around the world.

To learn more about #GivingTuesday participants and activities please visit:

Website: www.givingtuesday.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GivingTuesday

Twitter: twitter.com/givingtues

[1] Taub Center (2013)

RHIF continues to fight against taxation on charitable donations

August 31, 2014

Following last year’s appeal letter and several meetings with senior staff of the Ministry of Finance discussing the unlawful taxation of charitable gifts given by US donors to children’s hospitals in Israel, the Ministry placed a passport hold on the Chairman of RHIF. Below you can find the letter from RHIF’s attorney S Fridman, EsQ to Minister of Finance Yair Lapid calling him out on the intimidation of an NGO for whistle blowing.

August 23, 2014

Dear Minister Lapid,

I write on behalf of Robin Hood Israel Foundation, as a follow up to our letter of last year and discussions with your staff at that time.

It has come to light that your Ministry has placed a passport hold on both the Israeli and American passports of our Chairman. There has never been a notice of complaint by your Ministry, there has never been a Court hearing, there is not even a case docket on file. This is simply intimidation of an NGO for whistleblowing impropriety on the part of the Customs and Tax Authority going back decades via the unlawful demand of taxation from AngloAmerican charitable donations. Worse, your Ministry is not even addressing the matter at the Robin Hood Israel Foundation level, it is now targeting individuals associated with the organization on a personal basis.

Needless to say, withholding right to depart Israel is as serious a denial of human rights as can exist. To have perpetrated this offense against a citizen without valid basis -- indeed without personal relationship to the matters at all -- is further lack of adherence to the law and abuse of Ministerial authority. To have done all this, however -- without any Court involvement, without any complaint, without even notice to the citizen that the passport hold has been placed until his arrival at the airport to catch an outbound flight --violates every bureaucratic check and balance imaginable and is simply terrorizing and intimidating NGO staff into silence. Do not reply that you are busy running he government and this is all occurring at the bureaucratic level beneath your good office. Nonsense. You are responsible for your senior staff, including the Customs and Tax Authority.

Attorney S Fridman, EsQ

RHIF appeals to Finance Minister Lapid for fair taxation laws

September 30, 2013

RHIF’s Taxation on Charity in Israel fights for the right for charities in Israel to have fair taxation laws.

A few years ago, generous US donors send charitable gifts, including a shipment of teddy bears meant to comfort children in Israeli children’s hospitals suffering psychological trauma caused by terrorist rocket attacks. Much to our outrage the goods never reached the intended recipients because the Israeli tax authorities assessed a non-statutory tax on the teddy bears and the other donated items. On behalf of RHIS, former Finance Minister and Justice Minister, Yaakov Neeman appealed to the Minister of Fincance, Yair Lapid, to get the tax on charitable donations revoked. Sadly, appeal was to no avail. Below is a letter from RHIF’s Attorney A Aaron, Esq to Mr. Lapid summarizing the case.

September 13, 2013

Dear Minister of Finance Lapid,

I am writing to you and a host of others on behalf of my client, the Robin Hood Israel Foundation Charity. It seems that we have arrived at the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of the case of Teddy Bears that laid the golden eggs.

The story begins in 2006 when a shipment of charitable donations from the Beverly Hills Jewish community for the children's hospitals of Israel was illegally assessed a tax by the authorities at Ben Gurion Airport. Please see the attached story from the Los Angeles Times, dated January 2, 2006.

To summarize the story- US donors sent charitable gifts to Israel, among the gifts were teddy bears specifically requested by the Misrad Harvacha for the children's hospitals. Israeli tax authorities assessed tax. High level Israeli government officials expressed outrage. The goods never reached the intended recipients.

This story recurs in 2009 and again the Israeli taxation authorities assess a tax on the teddy bears (and the other donated items) This time my client engaged former Finance Minister and Justice Minister, Yaakov Neeman to advocate of behalf of the conduit charity, Robin Hood Israel Foundation.

Adv. Neeman's firm was able to negotiate the demand of the taxing authorities down even though neither his firm nor the taxing authorities could point to a relevant law that taxed charitable gifts. There was and is no statutory basis for this tax. It seemsthe tax authorities were looking for a way to extort money from innocent donors simply because they could. To recap, in their unbridled enthusiasm to exert an unlawful use of power, the authorities wanted tens of thousands of Shekels for a tax that did not exist.

Current Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is quoted in the LA Times story; "There never has been such a law passed in any Knesset, and there never will be such a law passed in any Knesset..."

As in 2006, none of these gifts- the Teddy Bears meant to comfort children suffering psychological trauma due to terrorist rocket attacks- reached their intended donors, nor cleared airport customs for release. We are informed the teddy bears ended up in the homes of the tax authorities staff. To quote the representative of the English Speaking Residents Association of Israel (ESRA), "it was like being mugged on the subway by your own kin."

Attorney A Aaron, Esq