Close to 400 yeshiva administrators and accountants participated in a conference Tuesday focused on important issues relating to federal taxation laws. The conference, organized by Agudath Israel of America, was the latest in a series of major gatherings for administrators of religious and charitable organizations in the Orthodox Jewish community, and was designed to promote greater awareness of, and compliance with, secular law.
The tax seminar for yeshivos was the latest in an ongoing series of gatherings organized by Agudath Israel to promote awareness of the importance of compliance with secular law and to educate the Orthodox community about legal requirements and procedures.
The idea of the series emerged from a large gathering on July 28 in Borough Park that attracted well over a thousand people and whose proceedings were electronically transmitted to thousands more. One of the highlights of that assemblage, which featured speeches from major rabbinic figures and legal experts on the theme "Ve'osiso Hayoshor Vehatov" — "You shall do that which is straight and good" — was an address by Rabbi Naftali Weisz, the Spinka Rebbe, who expressed public chagrin over mistakes that he himself had made and issued an impassioned plea for greater sensitivity to the importance of compliance with secular law. Indeed, Rabbi Weisz has been instrumental in helping Agudath Israel channel the community institutions' determination to comply with applicable laws into the ongoing series of conferences geared for a variety of institutions and efforts.
The first such workshop, for administrators of Gemachs (free loan funds) and similar charitable entities, took place in the Spinka Hall in Borough Park on September 23 and featured lawyers and a CPA. That same day, Agudath Israel of California was one of the sponsors of a symposium focused on the issue of compliance rules for nonprofit organizations.
Tuesday's conference was the third in the series. Another conference is planned for November 12 in Lakewood, New Jersey, for Gemachs and charitable funds; and plans are being pursued for similar symposia in other cities across the country.
According to Agudath Israel associate general counsel Rabbi Mordechai Biser, "The administrators and accountants dedicated more than three hours from their schedules, for one reason only: to ensure that everything their institutions do passes full legal muster."
The program focused on three general topics: charitable contributions, parsonage and employee benefits.
Addressing charitable contributions was Jay A. Friedman, Esq., Managing Director and Tax Counsel, Goldman Sachs. Jacob I. Friedman, Esq., Partner, Proskauer Rose LLP, took on the parsonage issue. The third area of focus, benefits to employees, was addressed by Mel Zachter, CPA, Executive Partner, Loeb & Troper; and by Allan M. Blum, CPA, Partner, Loeb & Troper.
Acting as moderator for the conference was Agudath Israel executive vice president for finance and administration Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin; and introductory remarks were delivered by the organization's executive vice president Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel and by Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, the rov of Agudas Yisroel Bais Binyomin,