Agudath Israel’s expertise in federal programs proved instrumental this week in saving Jewish schools hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in unnecessary audits.
Many Jewish schools throughout the country participate in the federal lunch and breakfast programs. These programs subsidize nutritious meals for low-income students. However, in order for schools to be eligible for these programs, they must comply with several requirements, including annual audits.
Recently, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDOA) informed several Jewish schools that the program-specific audits the schools were providing for the program were insufficient and a comprehensive school wide audit, was required. This school wide audit would cost the schools tens of thousands of additional dollars.
The affected schools reached out to Rabbi Avi Schnall, Agudath Israel’s New Jersey director, for help. Rabbi Schnall worked with Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Federal Affairs and Washington Director and Counsel,to clarify the legal requirements of the program. Agudath Israel was instrumental in enabling private schools to be eligible for the federal lunch program many years ago and Rabbi Cohen has successfully advocated for some of the specific regulations affecting audits. Working together Rabbis Schnall and Cohen clarified to the NJDOA that no additional audits are required by law. Within days of Rabbi Schnall’s request for reconsideration, the NJDOA agreed with Agudath Israel’s analysis and retracted its earlier request for an expensive and time-intensive school-wide audit.
The clarification issued by the NJDOA was described by one New Jersey accountant as “a big win for the local yeshivos”. Another accountant, not involved in the specific case, thanked Agudath Israel and added, “it’s good to know there is someone looking out for us.”