Obsession and the Clarion Fund
“Senders of Islam movie ‘Obsession’ tied to Jewish charity”
by Meg Laughlin, staff writer
St. Petersburg Times, September 26, 2008 [*]
A nonprofit group that has shipped out 28-million copies of a controversial film on radical Islam refuses to reveal the source of its funding, but numerous ties connect it to a well-known Jewish education group ... .
The backing for Obsession: Radical Islam’s War with the West and the intent of its distributor, the Clarion Fund, has been the subject of speculation since the DVDs were distributed beginning Sept. 14.
Clarion Fund, which was incorporated in 2006, distributed Obsession in 14 states, including the key presidential battlegrounds of Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The DVDs were distributed by mail and as an advertising supplement in 58 Sunday newspapers ... .
“We don’t have to say who its directors are or give financial information until Nov. 6, 2008,” said Clarion spokesperson Gregory Ross.
There are a number of connections between the Clarion Fund and a well-known organization called Aish HaTorah, an international charity founded in Israel in the 1970s.
Ronn Torossian, spokesman for Aish HaTorah, said that his group would in “no way be involved with Clarion Fund or Obsession because Aish HaTorah is a charity and must remain apolitical.”
Ross, the Clarion spokesman, was listed as an Aish HaTorah international fundraiser on a federal election donation form in June 2007.
Elke Bronstein is the name written on the mail permit for the bulk mailing of Obsession DVDs in mid September from Freeport, N.Y. Reached on her cell phone, Bronstein said she worked for Clarion, but would not provide more information.
The receptionist at Aish HaTorah in New York said Bronstein worked for Aish Discovery, which produces high-tech programs and films for Aish HaTorah. ...
Clarion’s address, according to Manhattan directory assistance, is the same address as Aish HaTorah International, a fundraising arm of Aish HaTorah. The Clarion Fund and Aish HaTorah International are also connected to a group called HonestReporting, which produced Obsession. HonestReporting’s 2006 tax return uses the same address.
“It’s news to me,” Torossian said.
Two of the three Clarion Fund directors at the time of its incorporation in November 2006 appeared as Aish employees on Aish Web sites at the same time. The third appeared on the Aish executive committee. Torossian said the overlap meant nothing.
Aish HaTorah’s main purpose is to “broaden the knowledge of individuals to their Jewish heritage.” Barbara Walters, Steven Spielberg and Bill Clinton have praised the charity.
A June 15, 2001, article in the Jerusalem Post said that Aish HaTorah provided $150,000 in “seed money” to create an organization called Media Watch International that took over HonestReporting, the group that [in association with Clarion] made Obsession four years later.
It is not clear who paid for the extensive mailing of the DVD from Freeport, N.Y. The permit number belongs to Clarion Fund, but Clarion Fund had no money in its bulk-mail account, according to postal administrators.
“The bulk mailing of this was made possible by a third party, other than Clarion,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Debbie Waller. “We’re looking into it.”
* Offered here for educational purposes only, under U.S.C. Title 17 Section 107.