LAT: Sterling foundation ads tout good works, but verifying them isn’t easy

As a convert to Orthodox Judaism from WASPism, I’ve noticed that Jews tend to feel pretty good about themselves. While the Protestants I grew up with were often uncomfortable with compliments, most Jews I know love compliments. They love being honored for their good deeds.

In this respect, Donald Sterling was the quintessential Jew. He kept taking out ads boasting about his good deeds.

Wikipedia notes:

In the early 20th century, Jewish daily and weekly publications were preoccupied with violence against blacks, and often compared the anti-black violence in the South to pogroms—this preoccupation was motivated by principles of justice, and by a desire to change racist policies in United States.[8] During the first few decades of the 20th century, the leaders of American Jewry expended time, influence and their economic resources for black endeavors—civil rights, philanthropy, social service, organizing—and historian Hasia Diner notes that “they made sure that their actions were well publicized” as part of an effort to demonstrate increasing Jewish political clout.

Who does that sound like? Wanting to publicize his good deeds to increase his clout?

Sometimes Jewish boasting is empty. In 1996, Jewish journalist Yosef Abramowitz did an expose on the Jewish National Fund, showing that they spent less than 10c on the dollar actually doing anything and all the rest of the money was ploughed back into fundraising. The Southern Poverty Law Center is the same way.

In my 20 years in shul, I’ve noticed it is not unknown for a Jew to make a public and showy donation of dramatic sums of money only to never come through with the gift.

Growing up a WASP, I saw no public fundraising. People weren’t shamed much if they didn’t give enough and they weren’t honored much if they gave a ton. WASPs are not nearly as comfortable as Jews with the natural passions for money, sex, honor and power and they don’t talk about them as easily and they don’t incorporate them as easily into their lives and they don’t channel them as effectively to strengthening their group.

Donald Sterling’s behavior in publicizing his charitable donations would have been inconceivable for all the WASPs I knew but common among Jews I know. It’s even considered a good deed in Judaism to make your donations public if they will encourage other people to donate and thus raise more money than if everything was done quietly.

Plenty of Jews give charity quietly and there is much in the Torah tradition extolling the doing of good deeds, such as charity, without seeking public attention for them, but in my experience, a far higher percentage of Jews than WASPs will admit, “I want the honor!”

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Charity watchdogs say Sterling’s penchant for advertising his philanthropic efforts is unusual.
“He is somewhat unique in how much he’s bragging about his philanthropy,” said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, an online evaluator of nonprofit groups. “He’s shouting from the rooftops, ‘Look how generous I am!'”

Here is a translation of a Ma’ariv (Israeli newspaper) article that sounds like it is about a lot of people who resemble Donald Sterling:

In hotel Paradise Mombassa [Kenya], crew members were humiliated by the Israeli tourists, it’s no surprise that even after the 2002 terror attack on the hotel, they refuse to forgive, not Al-Qa’eda but rather us (the Israelis)…

But for many locals, this new business face lift won’t make a big difference, the memory of those very years of total abuse by Israeli tourists and management is not going to fade away. They won’t forget the Israeli guests that sexually assaulted them or were just rude and arrogant. They won’t forget the Israeli management who came along with some bizarre professional demands, failing to pay their monthly wages on time and eventually just stopped paying altogether…

The Israeli client reacted enthusiastically, at the end of the day it was: a beautiful hotel offering sunny beaches at the time of the Israeli winter, complete with a flourishing cheap sex industry and just four and a half hours’ flight time from Tel Aviv…

Three years later, the humiliating practice is left like an open wound in the memory of the female hotel crew veterans. Once a week, just when the Israelis where checking out on their way back to the airport, a bell rang. ‘Get ready, the guest are leaving,’ announced the head of the entertaining team, frantically chasing the female crew. They were all ordered to gather near to the entrance gate and to chase the leaving busses while weeping desperately in front of the Israelis. Once they caught up with the busses they would bang on its metal frame with tears dropping from their eyes.

“It was a bizarre order,” giggled Saline Aching, the chief masseuse. “We were told to chase the bus, to sing and cry so the guests would know that we love them and want them to come back. I remember myself running like in a frenzied state, I would hit the bus with my fists shouting to the guests, ‘why do you leave us?’ ‘We miss you’, ‘We love you’. The Israelis would stare at us from the windows, some of them believed us to be genuine, others were shooting us with their video cameras. ”

Rahima Josef Katan: “If you were not crying you may find yourself in danger of losing your job. We were asked to think of something bad that happened to us, so we can cry for real. I didn’t cry.” “I didn’t cry,” Confesses Catherine Khaa, masseuse. “How could I, I didn’t love them at all. I fact I hated them.”

The weekly bus chasing was just one example of the way the staff were supposed to treat the Israeli guests. The principles were obvious: humiliation, stripped of dignity and hard labour. The guidelines were clear: The client is always right, the client must be happy, the client must return. The ones who carried most of the burden were the females amongst the entertainment team. Dorothy Maly recollects that once a week, on the arrival day, five of them would be taken to Mombassa airport. “We used sing to them Jambo Jambo (hello hello) and Evenu Shalom Aleichem. The local Kenyans were sure that we had had lost it but the Israelis were over the moon. They loved noise, once we arrived at the hotel, again we started singing loudly. In the night we were instructed by the manager to scream till the last Israeli leaves the dance floor. If a guest decides not to go to sleep, you were required to stay with him till he quits to his room. We were demanded to produce noise almost 24 hours a day. When we took a break, the manager would come and bark: ‘What’s the matter with you, do you fall asleep? I will cut your wage, move on…’.”…

“There were religious Jews who couldn’t sign the room service notes on the Jewish Sabbath. We would then keep a note with their room number attached to their bill. Once Sabbath was over, some of them would just refuse to pay. They would argue that we invented it all, ‘you forged our signatures’, they would say. The management would always believe them and expect us to cover their bills. I just couldn’t believe that humans can behave as such.”…

Mali, a dancer: “Saline, the chief masseuse would give us a shout when too many Israelis wanted a massage at the same time. At the time I knew nothing about massage. There was a woman that was brought over by the hotel’s rabbi and she was supposed to teach us. After a short instruction of five minutes I was apparently ready to have a go.”

In order to maintain ‘authentic African spirit’ the staff was obliged to put on very minimal clothes. Unlike the other hotels in the vicinity, where men were serving in uniform, in Paradise Mombassa the male crew were walking around half naked and with bare feet. The females were allowed just a minimal fabric on their breasts and pubes. “Even when temperatures dropped we were not allowed to cover ourselves.” Marci Mawagambo Aching said: “Sulami wanted us to look ‘authentic’ so when you walk around, the guests can check you out for the night. You must be attractive so they re-book another holiday. It was horrible, but what can you do? I needed the money. One of the Israeli female managers told us that we better follow Sulami’s orders, if he wants us too look like Africans, we better look like ones.”…

“All day long I heard the guests shouting Akol Kalul,” says Josef Katan. “Some of them held me by my arm and shouted at me Akol Kalul. Even on the beach they would just shout to passing people Akol Kalul, Akol Kalul. I would then ask them what that ‘Akol Kalul’ means? They would answer, ‘everything, even you’. I used to tell them that I am not Sulami’s property. He owns the hotel but not me. I thought to myself, “God, do they behave as such in their own country?”

In the best case scenario, the Akol Kalul was practiced in the free buffet bar materialising into gigantic chunks of meat put on a single plate. In the worst case scenario, it found its way into the massage room. Needless to say, not even one guest evaded his right to be massaged. Aching says, “The first thing the male guests did upon arrival, even before they unloaded their suitcases in the rooms, they would sprint to the massage room. They would enter the hotel with their eyes wide open asking, ‘where is the massage room?’ I used to plan the daily schedule, there was a competition amongst them who is going to get there first.

Mali: “My role was to tell them: ‘I am Dorothy and I am a masseuse in the hotel’ as soon as I mentioned it they would scream ‘massage, massage’. Most of them couldn’t speak English. They would just say, ‘I come now.’ A tourist from another country would wait even two weeks but in Paradise they wanted it all right on the spot. Sometimes, even before breakfast. Someone would come and tell you, ‘I come for a massage akol kalul, if you don’t do akol kalul, I take another masseuse’.”

“They would say: “I want Harpaya, (ejaculation), I would then ask what this Harpaya means and they would answer, ‘not only harpaya but we want it ‘all inclusive’, full sex.’ I used to tell them that we don’t do it and he would reply, ‘Read my lips, ‘the women are all included’, the salesman in Tel Aviv promised us that it’s Akol Kalul!’ Sometimes one of the female managers would suggest for to us to follow the guests’ demands just as a guarantee that they would come back.”

Katherine Kaha, a masseuse, confesses that she had to follow the demands… “I would start doing a massage, and then the man would tell me, ‘do it all over, you must do it’. In case I wouldn’t they would complain to the management. I didn’t like it at all but I did it. They would give me $1 sometimes two, I felt horrible.”

A frequent Israeli guest to the hotel: “There was always this problem with the massage, the Israelis used to abuse the girls to the very limit. It was appalling and it gave Israel a bad name. There were some groups I was really embarrassed to stand near to. They were so bossy and arrogant, they did whatever they liked, and just had good time.”

“One of the Israelis told me,” says Rahima, “you know Rahima, last night they provided me with a little baby girl, only 13 years old, I fucked her and gave her $5 just because she was penniless.” I then asked him, “Wasn’t she the age of your granddaughter?” He didn’t answer. On the same night he might as well have come back to the hotel shouting, ‘African women are the best value for money.’ Let me tell you, here in Africa, it isn’t that common that once you sleep with a woman you go and inform the rest of the world about it. But the Israelis kept it all open, they used to say about us: Mechona Tova, Mechona Tova (Good machine, Good machine).”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Charity, Donald Sterling, Jews. Bookmark the permalink.