A Tale of Two Cities
Letter to Western U.S. Rabbis About Irving Moskowitz
by Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem
Originally published 10 October 2000
in correspondence

Letter to Western U.S. Rabbis

Dear Rabbi,

We've sent you the video in this package because we believe it's important for you to know what Irving Moskowitz is doing, both in Jerusalem and the small city in Los Angeles County, Hawaiian Gardens. It's important because he's doing it in your name! Moskowitz has access to influential politicians and acts as though he has the support of the entire Jewish community.

You've undoubtedly heard about Moskowitz's controversial dealings in Jerusalem, which are widely viewed as a declaration of war against the peace process. For some years he has bought Palestinian homes for militant settler organizations and in 1996 he was a leading funder of an "archeological" tunnel, which sparked riots resulting in over 70 deaths. This year, Moskowitz has been constructing two Jewish housing projects--one of them in Abu Dis, regarded as the key to compromise on the Palestinian demand for a Jerusalem capital.

But did you know...

...that Moskowitz gets money for his Jerusalem real estate purchases from an enormous "charitable" bingo his Irving I. Moskowitz foundation runs in Hawaiian Gardens? Moskowitz has given the militant settler group Ateret Cohanim 4.7 million in bingo funds through the non-profit American Friends of Ateret Cohanim. The group, which openly advocates exclusive Jewish control of Jerusalem.

Moskowitz funneled $3 million in bingo funds into provocative Jerusalem real estate purchases through the American Friends of Everest, a US-based foundation wholly controlled by his family.

With his provocative real estate ventures, Moskowitz is taking it upon himself to make life and death decisions for Israelis, wrote a Jewish telegraphic agency analyst: "Moskowitz's rise to prominence stems not so much from the size of the funds he puts at the disposal of land-purchasing groups...but from his unerring choice of super-sensitive sites..."

and did you know that...

...the Moskowitz "charitable" bingo is so large and lucrative his foundation grosses as much as $33 million a year on the bingo? With 600 seats, the Moskowitz bingo is so big and its prizes are so lavish (players can even win new cars) that it's driven out smaller, traditional charity games. Every single synagogue within 20 miles of Hawaiian Gardens that relied on bingo has abandoned or cut way back on its games. We're hearing the same story from churches and service organizations. The Moskowitz foundation has no members to volunteer to run the games. Instead, availing himself of a state law requiring bingo workers to be volunteers of the organization running the game, Moskowitz uses unpaid Mexican immigrants. They run their feet off for whatever tips players toss their way. The Moskowitz "charitable" bingo is hard to distinguish from a commercial, for-profit business. It's using its tax-exempt status in a way that strains credulity and, ultimately, threatens the tax-exempt privileges enjoyed by real religious and charitable organizations. Moskowitz enjoys an explicit bingo monopoly in Hawaiian Gardens. One city council member who advocated an ordinance that would end the monopoly found himself out of Moskowitz's favor and soon after, out of office, a common trajectory for local politicos who buck Moskowitz.

...that Moskowitz uses the bingo revenues to control Hawaiian Gardens--not to alleviate its serious poverty?

Despite his promise, when Hawaiian Gardens gave him his bingo license in 1988, to donate most of the bingo profits to the city, Moskowitz donates the bulk of his foundation's bingo revenues to organizations opposing Middle East peace. Indeed, this year, Moskowitz has only donated $35,000 to the city -- less than one percent of his giving to municipal causes several years ago, when he was soliciting votes and securing public funds to build a poker casino (see below).

is this not a unique situation, that, in the name of the Jewish community, Moskowitz has taken over the politics, the economy and the future of a poor majority-latino city?

...that Moskowitz has put Hawaiian Gardens and its redevelopment agency in hock to build his casino?

In 1993, Moskowitz pushed through a sweetheart deal with the Hawaiian Gardens Community Redevelopment Agency to develop what, at the time, everyone thought would be a large retail complex. But by 1995, Moskowitz was backing a ballot measure authorizing a casino-with over $500,000, almost $200 a vote. In 1996 and 1997, when Moskowitz was recalling casino opponents on the city council and getting the project underway, he lavished bingo foundation funds on Hawaiian Gardens. then he cut way, way back, necessitating dismantling of the city's police force and the laying off of over half its staff. Meanwhile, the city and the Redevelopment Agency are staggering under the burden of Moskowitz's casino, which, unlike the "charitable" bingo, is a private venture of Moskowitz and his wife. But private in this instance does not preclude generous public funding. (The members of the Hawaiian Gardens city council comprise the redevelopment agency's board of directors.) That 1993 sweetheart deal has come back to bite the two government bodies, which have frantically borrowed from each other (and deprived residents of municipal services and redevelopment) as they scramble to cover the agency's commitments to pay most of the eminent domain costs and many of the construction costs of Moskowitz's casino. The agency is in danger of going belly up, its outside auditors warn. A state assembly member who represents Hawaiian Gardens is investigating whether the agency's contributions to Moskowitz's gambling venture are even legal under 1996 legislation known as the Isenberg amendment. This July, the agency's inability to pay for work on the casino apparently reawakened Moskowitz's giving instincts. but he didn't let his generosity run amok. Instead, he loaned the city $3.5 million at prime rate. The loan deal has the city doling the money out to the agency as casino bills come in. later, Moskowitz will withhold the city's cut of casino revenues until principal and interest are repaid. Those casino revenues, which promised the city prosperity, were the point of the whole exercise. Now it appears that Moskowitz--who lives in Florida--will be the only one to prosper.

And, finally, did you know

...that Moskowitz is operating the casino on a provisional license and has been campaigning to get the required permanent state license?

He sponsored a birthday fundraiser for Attorney General Bill Lockyer, whose department issues gambling licenses. We surmise that the attorney general has not addressed the issues we've outlined in this letter for fear of offending the Jewish community.

Please learn more about Moskowitz's impact on Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem by spending 18 minutes viewing the video.

The Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem is asking Lockyer to:

Deny Moskowitz a casino license!

Revoke Moskowitz's "charitable" bingo charter!

Help Hawaiian Gardens residents regain control of their city!

We hope you'll schedule viewings of the video for the maximum number of people in your congregation and that you --and they -- will join us in urging Attorney General Lockyer and other officials to stop Moskowitz!

This is an opportunity to express our desire for social justice in Hawaiian Gardens and for a fair chance for Israelis and Palestinians to achieve peace.

You can write to Lockyer at:

Office of the Attorney General
Department of Justice
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

You can also phone him at 916-445-9555 or visit his web site at caag.state.ca.us, which has forms for sending him email messages.

Please also visit our frequently updated web site, www.stopmoskowitz.org, for new information.

Thank you for your attention and sincerely yours,

Mina Meyer,
Coalition Co-Chair

Carlos Navejas
Coalition Co-Chair

Haim dov Beliak, Rabbi
Coalition Coordinator

Click here to read
a summary of the Coalition's video, "A Tale of Two Cities: Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem"

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