Clarion’s Clothiers

By Eli Clifton

Insights into who funded the mysterious Clarion Fund remain few and far between, but new information about two funders surfaced this week giving a better outline of the network of donors who supported Clarion’s activities.

The obituary for ‘’retail magnate’’ Sy Syms’ ran in The Forward on Tuesday and mentioned, ‘’Through the Sy Syms Foundation, Syms supported various Jewish and non-Jewish causes, including the UJA-Federation of New York, The Clarion Fund and the Inner-City Scholarship Fund.’’

I looked into the Sy Syms Foundation most recent tax returns and found a $25,000 contribution to the Clarion Fund in 2007/2008.

Sy Syms’ $25,000 contribution was a very small piece of the funding required to stage the massive DVD mailing campaign of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West before the November presidential election. Until now the only other known contributors were the Mamiye brothers who, like Syms, contributed $25,000 and are in the clothing business. Among other brands, the Mamiye brothers distribute Hello Kitty-branded kids clothing in the US.

Sy Syms started the Syms discount clothing stores—which now owns Filene’s Basement—in 1959 and was famous for coining his company’s slogan, ‘’An educated customer is our best customer’’.

A generous philanthropist, Syms’ contributions in 2007/2008 included a number of right-wing groups including: The Simon Wiesenthal Center—which has garnered controversy for screening The Third Jihad and building a new museum on a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem—and Friends of the IDF, but the majority of his philanthropy went to mainstream Jewish organizations and progressive social causes.

These included: Yeshiva University, the United Nations Association, Meals on Wheels, Amnesty International, SEEDS of Peace—a group which runs summer camps in Maine to bring together Egyptian, Palestinian and Israeli young people—and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The other new donor—giving just $10,000—discovered today was the Wagner Family Foundation.

The foundation is run by Leon and Marsha Wagner. Leon Wagner appears to be the son of Rubin Wagner—a major property developer in Long Island—and Sima Wagner.

Both Rubin and Sima Wagner are recently deceased (Rubin in 2009 and Sima in 2006).

Sima Wagner was active in the New York Jewish community, served on the The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s New York executive board, and was a member of the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union when she and her husband first arrived in the US.

All of these donors seem pretty scattered except for the consistency of their links to the Sephardic Jewish communities in New Jersey and Long Island and their links to the schmatte trade.

These links are particularly strong in the cases of the Mamiye brothers, Sy Syms, and Eli D Greenberg’s involvements with Clarion.

As I wrote back in August, Eli D. Greenberg, the attorney for the Clarion Fund was brought in to bring greater transparency to the Sephardic communities’ foundations after a sting operation in which the chief rabbi of the Syrian Jewish community and two others were arrested on money laundering charges.

Jewish Week wrote:

“Eli D. Greenberg of the firm Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, which specializes in health care and nonprofit law, will head an independent committee of legal and policy experts that will police nonprofits that raise tens of millions of dollars within a cohesive, largely affluent local community of up to 100,000 people of Syrian, Egyptian, Moroccan Israeli and other backgrounds.”

With only $60,000 in funding for the Clarion Fund accounted for, it’s far too early to draw conclusions about who the—presumably quite wealthy—donors were who funded the multi-million dollar campaign to mail 28-million DVD’s of the islamophobic film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West to swing state voters.

The Clarion Fund’s website now forwards visitors to—another site run by the fund—but Clarion has stayed busy since November promoting its new documentary The Third Jihad which exhibits shocking similarities to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In August, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Texas Governor Rick Perry attended a private screening of The Third Jihad in Jerusalem.

As future information about who funds the Clarion Fund—which has run one of the most expensive anti-Muslim campaigns in US political history—emerges, a better understanding of the network supporting such beliefs and sentiments will develop.

Until then, it appears that some pioneers of the schmatte trade in New York and a loose network of foundations and individuals linked to the Sephardic communities in New Jersey and Long Island seem to form the backbone of the known funding for the Clarion Fund.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. This piece indirectly makes my point about the irrelevancy of the MEK-neocon connection discussed a few days ago. The mailing of 28 million DVDs to swing-state voters in 2008, at a cost of millions, had no effect on the election outcome. And this despite the fact that this kind of propaganda does appeal to many of America’s Christian yahoos.

    I do however find the information you have dug up here very interesting. It certainly deserves airing. The similarity of “The Third Jihad” to the Protocols reinforces my earlier point about paranoia among Israel’s right-wing supporters. I believe these people are sincere and not following the tactics of the late Dr. Goebbels. Again, the tragedy is that they are, as it were, digging their own graves.

    Thank you for introducing me to the term schmatte trade, which I had not seen or heard before.

  2. The Zionist movement has reached the terminal phase – wherein the emotional force of its hatred overwhelms its rational thinking necessary for survival.

  3. In their zeal to label the critics of all extreme Zionist land grabbing activities and human rights violations as anti-Semitism the Zionists have made and are continuing to make this world unsafe for all Jewish people. As not all Muslims are not Al-Qaeda or Taliban not all Jews are Shylocks or Zionists, it is about time the majority Jewish community starts to convey this message.

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