When a charity isnt being charitable

The lawsuits filed last week against the Jewish Educational Center by city, state and federal authorities should come as no surprise to readers of the Bulletin.

We've been writing about the JEC's questionable used car business for more than two years — at least a year before it became a national story on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in April, 1996.

The JEC still deserves a day in court to tell its side of the story and attempt to refute the charges.

But no matter the outcome, one thing is clear — the state of California and the federal government need to toughen laws that charities operate under.

And charities that don't abide by such a law should lose their non-profit status.

There needs to be a law that stipulates how much money raised by a charity must be used for charitable purposes rather than administrative expenses.

The JEC, in its previous reports to the state, admitted that of every dollar raised, only 37 cents went to charitable purposes. And that was supposed to be an improvement for the JEC, which earlier showed only 17 cents of every dollar going toward charity.

The JEC filed its reports with the state attorney general and the Internal Revenue Service, but often was late in submitting them.

Such reports are worthless, however, unless the state and the IRS have the staff to examine them — and the ability to impose sanctions for late or inaccurate reporting.

Organizations holding nonprofit status must be made accountable to authorities. Donors should never have to wonder if their charitable gifts are going to benefit people in need.

To do the work of tzedakah (charity or righteousness), one must be a tzaddik (righteous person).