The £50 million income of 'the biggest Jewish charity you've never heard of'

Founded 40 years ago, the Achisomoch Aid Society channels donations to thousands of charities across the community'


If asked which Jewish organisation collects the largest amount of charity money each year, the response might be Jewish Care, or possibly UJIA.

But the answer is “probably the biggest charity you have never heard of”, says Matti Fruhman, Achisomoch’s chief executive of the past two and a half years.

In 2022, the income of the Achisomoch Aid Company reached more than £50 million for the first time, an increase of more than 40 per cent on the year before.

Founded 40 years ago by Yitzchok Katz, who is originally from Cardiff, it channels donations to thousands of charities across the community, particularly in the Orthodox sector.

Last year, it was the vehicle for more than £25 million given to Jewish schools, yeshivot and other educational institutions; £7.5 million for the relief of poverty and a further £6 million for religious services. Its largest single beneficiary over the year was the Hasmonean Schools Trust with nearly £1.3 million.

In the early days, Achisomoch was purely a charity voucher company —users would pay in an amount and get a charity cheque book with the tax relief added, minus an administration fee of five per cent. They could then distribute the vouchers to their charities of choice.

Although vouchers remain popular, much of the operation is now online with users making donations through a digital account.

Achisomoch has some 4,000 charities on its books, processes around a quarter of a million transactions a year and has a growing client base of 3,000 individual givers and organisations.

While most of the money goes to Jewish causes, there are also donations to some of the larger national charities.

Through its app, givers are able to donate via their smartphone. “It’s very technologically advanced,” Mr Fruhman said. “People want ease in life and we offer an easy solution.

“Every charity has a QR code. You put your phone on top of the QR code; it takes you directly to your Achisomoch account. All you have to do is to put the amount in and you’ve made your donation.”

To give some idea of Achisomoch’s size, the KKL charity voucher scheme administered by JNF UK handles around £8 to 9 million a year.

Mr Fruhman confessed that when he joined, even he “didn’t realise the breadth and scope” of the organisation.

“The amount that people give is phenomenal and it’s humbling to see in many ways. This community is, right across the board, incredibly generous. For us to be able to facilitate that is a key motivator.”

At around £594,000, the overheads incurred by the Hendon-based team of ten amount to little more than one per cent of income. Any surplus from administration charges over the year is ploughed back into Jewish schools by the organisation — last year, the figure was “just shy of £900,000”.

While keeping the technology up to date has become increasingly important, another vital area is compliance. The team has to check that both those who open accounts and the intended destinations of their money are bona fide.

“Compliance underpins everything we do,” Mr Fruhman stressed. “We have external advisers — we work with some of the top legal and accountancy firms in the country.” And while the costs of compliance may be increasing, “it’s a core investment alongside the technology”.

The online platform has a number of benefits, not least when it comes to users filling in their tax returns. Instead of having to tot up all their donations through the year in order to enter the overall amount eligible for Gift Aid, their Achisomoch account will keep an accessible record for them.

There is also a portal where the recipient charities can keep track of incoming donations.

The Manchester-born CEO holds an MBA from Manchester Business School and came to the job with a broad range of communal experience.

He started with the Rothschild Foundation and worked for some years for Tag International Development, the Jewish overseas aid charity founded by Rabbi Yossi Ives. He is a trustee of both Mizrachi UK and Yom Hashoah UK.

Maintaining a charity voucher scheme can be a complicated business. Not so long ago, a similar scheme, the Society of the Friends of the Torah, went into liquidation.

Mr Fruhman acknowledged that running an operation handling so much charitable money entailed “enormous responsibility”. But he considered it “a privilege to have a front row seat” witnessing the extent of the community’s commitment to tzedakah.

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