Machne Menachem

A BRIEF HISTORY: 1995-1996

Posted in Uncategorized by machnemenachem on June 21, 2009

First year (1995)

In the spring of, 1995, I met with Yosef Goldman, Meir Hershkop and Mendle Hershop to discuss opening a summer camp for teenage boys. Our aim was to open a camp of high standards of both Torah learning and enjoyable activities, that would be affordable for all parents of our community. For this purpose we sought the best possible staff and offered affordable prices, with scholarships for those unable to pay full price.

To provide these scholarships would need additional funds. In order to provide strong financial backing, we invited Yaakov Spritzer to join us.

The new organization was legally registered under the name “Machne Menachem’” with the board of directors consisting of Mendle Hershkop, Shmuel Heber, Yosef Goldman and Yaakov Spritzer (see Exhibit #2)

In response to parents’ request, we soon opened a division of Machne Menachem for younger children called Gan Menachem.

It was agreed that Mendle Hershkop and Yaakov Spritzer would bear financial responsibility, Yosef Goldman responsibility for registration and management, and

Shmuel Heber educational responsibility, including hiring staff and supervising classes.

We agreed, at Spritzer’s request that he be in charge of the bookkeeping, specifying that he be responsible for paying the teachers and counselors. We stipulated, however, that every check must be signed by at least two of the directors, and that he must regularly keep us informed of the exact bank balance, so that after the summer we could give an accountant precise figures for all income and expenditure.

The camp’s success exceeded all expectations. Over 200 boys enrolled and the standard of learning was very high. All the educators who visited the camp were deeply impressed, as was Rabbi Marlow [obm] when he visited.

To cover the camp’s deficit, Meir and Mendle Hershkop spent their evenings raising funds, and succeeded in raising about $100,000, all of which they handed over to Spritzer as agreed.

During the summer, whenever we asked Spritzer about the bank balance, he always avoided giving exact figures, with a different excuse every time. Sometimes he said everything was covered, other times he said maybe we were a little short, but all our demands for exact accounting were unsuccessful.

After the summer, we held an emergency meeting at my house to force Spritzer to show us the books and explain why he had not paid the teachers and counselors. This time he had a new excuse: Claiming that the camp account was $30,000 short, he declared that since we had no intention of paying it anyways, he had no obligation to give us any accounting!

Meir and Mendle Hershkop immediately declared their readiness to cover any deficit from their own pocket or from funds they would raise, but on condition that Spritzer would first prove that such a deficit existed. According to their reckoning, there should have still been money left in the account Spritzer, however, stubbornly refused to give any accounting.

During Tishrei that year, Meir and Mendle Hershkop invested much time and effort to organize the sale of Kapporos, advertising that all profits would go for the benefit of the community. They gave all the profits to Spritzer for the camp.

When Spritzer still refused to give any accounting, I told Hershkop my opinion that under such circumstances it was impossible to allow Spritzer to continue, and he would have to resign from the board.

Second Year (1996)

Nevertheless, they continued working with in the hope of reaching an agreement, and went on raising funds for the next year’s camp. Among those they approached to help out was Meir Schreiber.

Following the first year’s outstanding success (and since parents had no idea of the internal disagreements), 500 boys enrolled at the camp that summer, 1996.

The camp needed new grounds, Meir and Mendle Hershkop, assisted by Meir’s son-in-law Levi Hartman, spent much time and effort seeking a suitable location, eventually finding an excellent one – Machne Menachem’s present location [in Lackawaxen, PA].

They also conducted negotiations with the owners and got it at a very reasonable price.

As the camp approached, the Hershkops began to suspect – based on hard facts – that Spritzer was diverting the funds being raised for his own use. Once again they demanded a detailed accounting of all funds, a large proportion of which had been raised by them.

Spritzer decided to get them out of the way. He joined forces with Meir Schreiber, starting arguments with them and summoning Meir Hershkop and Levi Hartman to a Din Torah before the Beth Din of Crown Heights. Several sessions were held over the course of the summer and after.

After the first session, the Beth Din ruled (Erev Rosh Chosdesh Tammuz, 5756 – 1996) that all members of the camp administration are equally “within” and that “all decisions must be made by the whole committee (following the majority).” However, Spritzer and Schreiber disobeyed the Halachic ruling, never calling Hershkop or Hartman to any meeting, and deciding everything on their own.

At the beginning of the summer, Spritzer incited staff members, particularly Meir Kahanov, against Meir Hershkop, convincing them to tell the Rabbonim they do not want him. The Rabbonim asked Hershkop not to be involved that year, but stressed that they were neither removing him from the camp nor ruling on who owns it. Hershkop obeyed the Rabbonim and was not involved throughout that summer.

Because of the infighting, the camp had no efficient administration and was a colossal failure, leaving most campers and parents highly dissatisfied.

On 10 Kislev, 5757 (1996), the Beth Din issued a ruling emphasizing that this “only referred to management of the camp (not the financial aspect, for which there has to be a separate session).” Based on opinions expressed by several educators, they ruled that Spritzer should administer the camp rather then Meir Hershkop or Hartman.

At that Din Torah, none of the original members of the camp’s board of directors – Shmuel Heber, Mendle Hershkop or Yosef Goldman – participated except for Spritzer, and neither the Din Torah nor the ruling dealt with ownership of the camp.

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