Piotr Kadlcik, the president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, has refuted accusations of corruption and mismanagement in the restitution and administration of pre-war Jewish communal property.
Kadlcik issued a statement Tuesday in response to allegations put forward in a cover-story package of articles called “Kaddish for a Million Bucks” published in September in the Polish edition of Forbes magazine. The articles were written by Wojciech Surmacz, in cooperation with Nissan Tzur, a Poland-based Israeli journalist working for “Maariv” and “The Jerusalem Post”.
The Forbes package says Kadlcik “controls the process of restitution of Jewish communal property, worth – according to our estimates – more than 1 billion zlotys ($310 million).” The articles accuse him and other Jewish leaders — among other things — of financial malfeasance, securing “private gains from the restitution of assets of former Jewish communities” and selling restituted property at below market value. They also accused the World Jewish Congress and World Jewish Restitution Organization of being complicit in financial mishandling and corruption. It lists a number of specific cases.
Ronald Lauder, president of the WJC, already rejected these accusations in a statement Sept. 18.
In his own statement Kadlick refuted point by point 16 assertions made in the Forbes articles, saying he did not address other issues as “at this stage the matter is in the hands of our legal counsel.”
Among them, JTA notes:
In response to the accusation that the Jewish community sold part of the cemetery in Torun in northern Poland to a developer, Kadlcik wrote in a statement issued Tuesday, “This took place in 1993 when the owner and sole administrator of the property was the City of Torun.” He also explained that some buildings, such as the former Jewish hospital in Siedlce, that are not listed on the national heritage registry and are in bad condition are very difficult to preserve.
“After taking possession of the real estate, the Community tried to lease the property or find an investor for it but was unsuccessful,” he wrote.
This was also true of the beit midrash in Sokolow Podlaski, located about 50 miles east of Warsaw and home to a large Jewish population before World War II. The building, which was rebuilt during the communist period, was recovered in 1999 and sold in 2000.
The Forbes articles, which accused the Union of Jewish Religious Communites and FODZ of lack of transparency in financial dealings regarding property, led to outside calls for a public audit (see HERE, in the LA Jewish Journal and HERE in eJewish Philanthropy).
In addition to Kadlcik’s statement, the Board of FODZ has also issued a statement refuting this:
The Board would like to stress that FODZ complies with legal regulations, binding in Poland, that oblige FODZ to submit activity and financial reports to the registry court, the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration, and the tax office. Additionally, even though it is under no legal obligation to do so, the financial report of the foundation is verified each year by independent auditors. All these documents are publicly available. For this reason we dismiss, as untrue, the articles’ allegations regarding management of the assets by FODZ.
The Forbes package included an op-ed piece by Seweryn Aszkenazy, president and chief funder of the Beit Warszawa reform congregation, which leveled direct personal attacks on Kadlcik, Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Monika Krawczyk, the CEO of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ), and others.
He described Kadlcik as one who “likes a drink or many and can often be seen on the street trying to find his bearings” and called Schudrich, “the perfect rabbi to foster corruption.” He accused Krawczyk […] as “charged by her employers, the largest Jewish world organizations, with selling and liquidating as fast as feasible the half of the restituted communal property she controls on behalf of those organizations, and with transferring the moneys to their bank accounts for further waste … to hell with Polish Jews!”
In his statement, Kadlick said “all those are epithets which will see their day in court.”