In a response to my post on the Clarion Fund’s advisory board, a user named “Nate Mellin” wrote a comment which challenged my reporting on the Clarion Fund’s documentaries and my participation in JewsOnFirst’s Rebutting Obsession project.
The charges against my reporting are groundless. Indeed, I’d challenge Mellin to point to any inaccuracies in what my colleagues or I have published. However, Mellin’s comment is in itself instructive — he is himself yet another connection in the extensive web that ties the Clarion Fund to Aish HaTorah, an ultra-orthodox organization based in Israel — and further bears out my reporting on the subject.
Eli Clifton is in no way an unbiased journalist reporting on this issue, but has undermined his own credibility by mixing in non-biased reports with reports on his anti-Clarion agenda. [...]
He has publicly acknowledged this bias in a report published on this very website April 19th, 2010. http://www.lobelog.com/clarions-latest-film-unveiled/
“As highlighted in the ‘Rebutting Obsession’ project (which, in full disclosure, I contributed to)…”
Eli Clifton may have his opinions on the films, but they are just that: opinions. He should in no way be considered a neutral authority on this topic.
The JewsOnFirst project looks at the supposed “facts” presented in Obsession and points out the distortion of historical events and misrepresentations of Islam and Muslims in the film. This was not a negative review of the film — think “two thumbs down” — but an objective, well-sourced effort to fact-check the Clarion Fund’s documentary.
But who, exactly, is “Nate Mellin” and why does he care about a blog post which highlights the far-right leanings of Clarion’s entire advisory board?
Using an e-mail address recorded by our comment system, it appears Mellin is associated with a company called JI Website Design and Development. That URL is part of JewishIdeas.com, “an Orthodox Web-Directory and Search.” The company JI, according to its portfolio, designed the websites for Jerusalem Online University and Imagination Productions, among others.
All of these share common links to Aish HaTorah, the Israeli orthodox Jewish group which has denied having any formal links to the Clarion Fund. But Aish and Clarion once shared an address in New York; Clarion’s executive director, Raphael Shore, has worked as a full-time employee of Aish HaTorah and sits on the board of Imagination Productions; Rabbi Henry Harris and Rebecca Kabat incorporated the Clarion Fund, along with Raphael Shore, and served as employees of Aish HaTorah; Shore’s twin brother, Ephraim Shore was the executive director of Aish HaTorah in Miami and Toronto; and Clarion’s spokesperson, Gregory Ross, was an Aish HaTorah fundraiser.
Now we can add Nate Mellin, or “Nathan Meloul” as he is listed on his LinkedIn profile and his domain name registration, to the list of people whose activities appear to blur the line between Clarion and Aish HaTorah.
In his LinkedIn profile, he describes his current jobs as “Sr. Web Developer at Imagination Productions.” Imagination Productions produces JerusalemOnlineU.com, formerly known as AishCafe.com. The blog Failed Messiah looked into this and concluded: “Aish HaTorah changed the name of a missionary program, masked its connection to Aish, and uses it – and cash payments – to lure unsuspecting college students to Orthodoxy.”
Which brings us back to Mellin/Meloul. Why is he defending the Clarion Fund if he works for Imagination Productions?
The answer might lay in the Clarion Fund’s most recent 990, which lists $190,000 going to Imagination Productions to “help Imaginations further their mission of promoting Jewish Education.”
To summarize, Imagination Productions–whose board of directors includes Anne Ayalalon, the wife of Danny Ayalon, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister and former Ambassador to the U.S.–shares employees with Clarion and Aish HaTorah. Clarion helps fund Imagination. It should comes as no surprise that Imagination’s web-developer is defending the Clarion Fund’s documentaries. And all these institutional affiliations lead back to Aish HaTorah.
(We contacted Mellin/Melloul, Clarion, Jewish Ideas Website Design, Jerusalem Online U, and Imagination Productions for comment. As of press time, none had responded. We’ll update if we get anything.)
A Clarion Fund spokesperson confirmed to LobeLog that Nathan Melloul is a web designer for Imagination Productions. Melloul does not work for Clarion or RadicalIslam.org said the spokesperson.
When asked to explain the purpose of the $190,000 grant from Clarion to Imagination, the spokesperson responded that he doesn’t work with Clarion’s finances and, as a result, doesn’t know why the transfer took place.
He confirmed that Raphael Shore makes films with both Imagination and Clarion.
The “About Clarion Fund” page on the RadicalIslam.org website has added the following statement:
Clarion Fund was founded by Raphael Shore in 2006. Shore is also the founder of Imagination Productions, a distributor of films relating to Jewish education; and JerusalemOnlineUniversity, a portal for online education. Previously, Shore served in senior posts at Aish HaTorah.
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