Part of the problem is that the business model of the Chabad House makes it dependent on contributions. According to Robert Furr, the bankruptcy attorney for the Chabad House, Chabad Houses do not charge regular membership dues like many other shuls do. This leaves voluntary member donations as the main source of funding for the Chabad House. Anyone who runs an organization financed primarily by donations from the wealthy must be aware that when an economic downturn happens (and it always *will* happen -- markets tend are cyclical), that voluntary donations will drop off as well. I don't know if Rabbi Ezagui curtailed his operations when the recession hit (so as to slow down his burn-rate) or salted away some of the donations from the good years for the lean years (a lesson learned from Joseph), but at this point, he has run out of money and has loans that are due.
What struck me most about the article was Rabbi Ezagui's sense of entitlement to the charity dollars of others. Here's the money quote (pun intended):
Ezagui said wealthy people are making excuses not to give.
"The Jewish people who have the money should feel a guilt trip. They have plenty of money," he said. "I see them in their Rolls Royces, I go to their million-dollar houses and they say, 'I don't have the money, Rabbi.' "
Apparently, Rabbi Ezagui does not understand that sometimes one can be what is colloquially referred to as "house-poor." A person can have a lot of their wealth tied up in non-liquid assets that are not easy to dispose of or leverage for additional cash. In addition, even if someone has a million-dollar home that is completely paid for, you have to take into account that they are actually living there. So, what is Rabbi Ezagui asking them to do? Sell the home and move to fund a Chabad House? Borrow against it to fund a Chabad House? Do either of those sound realistic or fiscally responsible?
But hey, let's even say (for the sake of argument) that they have cash sitting around. Even so, Rabbi Ezagui is *still* wrong. No one *owes* a contribution to the Chabad House. The last time I checked, people are free to give their tzedaka money to any charity that they wish. They certainly don't have to give to the Chabad House, nor do they need to be made to feel guilty about where they choose to contribute.
I known nothing about this particular Chabad House. For all I know, they are a very worthy institution where wonderous work is done in Jewish outreach. For all I know, Rabbi Ezagui may be a tireless worker working to bring Yiddishkeit to the masses of Palm Beach. But he has to learn two things:
1. He has to find a new business model that does not rely so heavily on donations from wealthy patrons and is not as susceptable to economic downturns.
2. His organization is not automatically entitled to other people's money. He has to learn that there are other competitors for people's money, which include discretionary spending, other charitable options or even basic necessities. No one needs to feel guilty because they don't contribute to *his* cause.