Monday Afternoon, December 20, 2021

In a December 14 article about MRFF's efforts to stop Wreaths Across America from placing Christmas wreaths on Jewish and other non-Christian veterans' graves, Fox News wrote:

“Matt Viola, vice president at Charity Navigator, an organization that evaluates nonprofits, told Fox News that Wreaths Across America’s financial practices appear to be above board.”

But Charity Navigator gave Wreaths Across America a
FAILING GRADE of 65% on its finances and accountability!
Split image showing Wreaths Across Americas failing Charity Navigator rating on the left and a wreath being placed on a Jewish grave on the right
“Viola also reviewed the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s finances,” continued Fox News, quoting Charity Navigator Vice President Viola as saying of Mikey Weinstein’s salary compared to MRFF's size, “We do see six-figure compensation for our $1mil or more star-rated charities, but its low six figures. So for a charity under $1mil, this appears to be high."

But who did Charity Navigator give a
grade to on its finances and accountability? 

Wreaths Across America gets a FAILING GRADE
on its finances from Charity Navigator

By: MRFF Senior Research Director Chris Rodda

Monday, December 20, 2021
Chris Rodda
Well, “National Wreaths Across America Day” has come and gone for this year. On Saturday, December 18, the so-called non-profit Wreaths Across America and its thousands of volunteer cemetery wreath layers laid millions of Worcester Wreath Company Christmas wreaths on the graves of veterans buried in our country’s national cemeteries and other cemeteries across the land.

In my last two posts, I’ve written about two issues raised by Wreaths Across America and its indiscriminate blanketing of cemeteries with its Christmas wreaths. 

The first, as I explained in my post titled “Wreaths Across America: Forcing veterans who didn’t celebrate Xmas in life to celebrate it in death,” is the issue that brings a slew of deceased veterans’ family members to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) each year — the fact that these Christmas wreaths often get placed on the graves of Jewish and other non-Christian veterans, Christianizing these non-Christian veterans’ graves in the organization’s zeal to lay wreaths on EVERY grave. 

The second, as I detailed in my next post, titled “So-called “non-profit” claims its Xmas wreaths aren’t Xmas wreaths – but sells them as Xmas wreaths,” is that the “non-profit” Wreaths Across America was created the owners of a Christmas wreath company and buys all of those millions of Christmas wreaths from its own for-profit wreath company. As I wrote in that post:

Wreaths Across America was created by Morrill Worcester, the owner of the Worcester Wreath Co., and Morrill Worcester’s wife, Karen Worcester, is the executive director of Wreaths Across America! 

In other words, the Worcester’s for-profit Christmas wreath company created a non-profit organization that has a need for millions of Christmas wreaths every year, then their non-profit gave the contract for these millions of Christmas wreaths to none other than their own for-profit company.

So, how much money are we talking about here? Well, according to their latest available tax return, the Worcester’s non-profit Wreaths Across America took in nearly $25 million in donations in 2019 and then paid nearly $17 million of that to their for-profit wreath company to produce the wreaths.

Not unexpectedly, Fox News was among the right-wing news outlets to jump all over MRFF for its criticism of Wreaths Across America’s practice of “carpet-bombing,” as MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein put it, our national cemeteries with its Christmas wreaths by placing a wreath on every grave, whether the veterans’ families want them to or not. 

In another article and TV segment, Fox News addressed the issue of Wreaths Across America’s giving all of its very lucrative wreath contracts to its own for-profit wreath company, and did so by getting the vice president of Charity Navigator to defend Wreaths Across America’s practice of giving multi-million dollar contracts to its own for-profit company by questioning Mikey Weinstein’s salary. From the Fox News article:

Matt Viola, vice president at Charity Navigator, an organization that evaluates nonprofits, told Fox News that Wreaths Across America’s financial practices appear to be above board.

"It has come up before that the wreathes themselves are purchased from a related entity," he said. "This is disclosed properly on the 990 [tax form], and assuming they are paying fair market value for the wreaths (similar to other vendors) and have done that due diligence, they are doing nothing illegal or against IRS regulations."

Viola also reviewed the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s finances. According to its 2020 IRS filings, Weinstein received a salary of $314,000 even, and the organization reported under $700,000 in total revenue. Those same documents also showed that Weinstein reported working 105 hours per week, which amounts to 15 hours a day, seven days a week.

"The 105 hours worked for Michael Weinstein is a bit odd," Viola told Fox News. "I don’t think I ever saw a number that high."

"If we ignore the 105 hours per week workload, that is higher than what we normally see," he added. "We do see six-figure compensation for our $1mil or more star-rated charities, but its low six figures. So for a charity under $1mil, this appears to be high."
But Fox News’s link to Charity Navigator didn’t go to Charity Navigator’s page rating Wreaths Across America, or to its page rating MRFF, and the reason for that seems quite obvious …

Charity Navigator gave Wreaths Across America a FAILING GRADE of 65% on its finances and accountability!!!
Screen shot from Charity Navigator website showing Wreaths Across America's failing grade
And who did Charity Navigator give a 100% passing “GIVE WITH CONFIDENCE” grade to on its finances and accountability? You guessed it … MRFF!!!
Screen shot from Charity Navigator website showing MRFF's 100 percent passing grade
That’s right, Fox News got Matt Viola, vice president of Charity Navigator, to say the exact opposite of what his own organization has determined about Wreaths Across America and MRFF. I think Mr. Viola, Charity Navigator, and Fox News some ’splainin’ to do!

And, just for the record, Mikey Weinstein really does work 105 hours a week. As his research director for over 14 years, I can attest to that. The man starts calling me at 9 a.m. in the morning (which is 7 a.m. his time) and is still calling me at 10 or 11 p.m. at night because he’s still working. And he doesn’t take weekends off, as I know because his calls don’t stop on the weekends. Thousands of service member and veteran MRFF clients who have gotten their calls and emails personally answered by Mikey at night and on weekends could also attest to this.
MRFF supporter Rabbi Joel Schwartzman, a former USAF chaplain, powerfully responds to a MRFF detractor regarding Wreaths Across America

From: Rabbi Joel Schwartzman
Subject: a Response to the Wreaths Across America Project
Date: December 19, 2021 at 8:11:56 PM MST
To: (name withheld)
Rabbi Joel Schwarzmann
First, I should like you to know that I served as a military rabbi in the United States Air Force for over twenty-three and a half years. During my chaplaincy, I served all Air Force personnel except where religious affiliation required a chaplain of that denomination. I prayed in a non-sectarian way when the function was a Civil Religious ceremony such as an invocation at a Thanksgiving dinner or a benediction at the National Prayer Breakfast. I met the fifty-two Iranian hostages when they returned via the Wiesbaden Hospital. I participated there in an Interfaith Service of Thanksgiving until it suddenly became sectarian through the singing of a clearly Christian hymn. I saved the moment for a Jewish participant whom I had convinced to come under the understanding that the service would not devolve into denominational prayer. When it did, I change my prepared offering and presented a purely Jewish prayer for peace in both Hebrew and English, something I would not have otherwise done. In doing this, I kept my promise to my Jewish returnee and his fallen countenance returned to one of pride.

This is to say, as a military Jewish chaplain, I clearly understood the boundaries under which we chaplains operated. We would minister to all where possible but we would not engage in proselytizing; nor would we attempt to provide services which compromised our own beliefs. For example, although I knew of instances where no rabbi or off-base Jewish community was available, a few Protestant chaplains did lead Jewish services. I, however, would never have offered to lead a Christian service for theological reasons which are obvious.

So, as I have responded to other thoughtful emails which have criticized the MRFF’s objections to this Wreaths Across America project, I shall answer what you have so beautifully expressed here with my objections to these wreaths.

First, should this charitable organization have wanted to find a more appropriate time of year, it should have selected Memorial Day, a day in which the President of the United States presents a wreath, usually at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On the other hand, wreaths on the graves of the fallen, placed especially at this time of year, create a clear association with Christmas. Whether these wreaths are Christian symbols or not, their appearance now makes them so.

My uncle fought in the Pacific during WWII. He was an enlisted load-master on the C-17s. He became a rabbi after the war and now lies in a national cemetery in Sarasota, Florida. I can assure you that were he to know that a wreath had been placed on his grave, he would come flying out of his grave and move it off his grave.

This is not a Jewish custom. It mocks those whose beliefs are other. Jews have a different way of memorializing our dead when we come to grave side. We place small stones on the headstone or grave marker. Some also bring a candle-in-glass called a yahrzeit or memorial candle, and light them and leave them there.   The candle burns on for up to twenty-four hours. The reasons for these customs are not important here. But, I would no sooner mark a non-Jew’s grave thusly, without permission, than I would eat pork. I have no right to impinge or usurp the hallowed ground of any non-Jew, and I’m fairly sure that Muslims and others would respond the same way.

I will one day be buried in Arlington, space allowing. My family would consider my grave violated were they come at this time of year to visit. I would condone this project with the very same response as I do the Mormon conversion of Jewish souls after these, my fellow Jews, have died.

I am aware and have read Rabbi Gittlesohn’s prayer. I would contend that the times and circumstances, indeed the very nature of what is happening here, is the complete opposite of the spirit of his words. At the very least, this wreath laying business…and it is, indeed, a business!, is a deed filled with an insensitive chutzpah that assumes that everyone would resonate with the spirit of the season and alleged altruism. If you want to do that, then put American flags at these graves, not wreaths. It is this blanket assumption to which I and the MRFF so bitterly object. It frankly smacks of a usurpation and a violation of holy ground.

I hope to have clarified the issue, obviously from my point of view. This is not some attempt to honor those soldiers, sailors and airmen who have served this country. This is a group’s casting its will over every grave whether those buried there and their living relatives would wish it or not. That, I firmly believe, takes some gall. And whether or not the national cemeteries allow it; whether this isn’t a violation of my Constitutional First Amendment rights to freedom to practice my religion my way may yet to be adjudicated. But, please, good sir, know that this rabbi finds this sorry over reach to be less than tasteful. It does not honor my people. It does something altogether different.

Rabbi Joel Schwartzman


Group Blasts Wreaths Across America
For 'Carpet-Bombing' Veterans'
Tombstones With 'Christian Gang Signs'

By: Anton Carillo

Monday, December 20, 2021

Christianity Daily covers MRFF’s effort to keep Wreaths Across America from defiling the graves of Jewish and other non-Christian veterans with distinctly Christian Christmas wreaths, and has apparently been following everything MRFF has sent out on the issue.
MRFF's Inbox

Dear Military Religious Freedom Organization,

As a 25 year Marine and OIF veteran, I dedicated my career to providing the best air support for ALL of my fellow Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen. Several times during my career, I was humbled to visit battlefields such as Wake Island and Iwo Jima multiple times, to Ramadi, Fallujuh and Baghdad, Iraq. Yet, it was Iwo Jima that left the most lasting impression on me, especially after learning of Rabbi Rolan Gittleshon’s 1945 Eulogy for the 5th Marine Division. In fact, I used his words throughout my career and to all my Marines while commanding at two different levels. Your organization and leaders should read that Eulogy.

In 1945, some Christian Chaplains were critical of having a Rabbi write the eulogy. Had the lead Chaplain (a Christian) not assigned such a somber and difficult task to Rabbi Roland, neither the Marine Corps nor the world would never have heard the Rabbi’s special and enduring words. He reminded and continues to remind that one’s particular religion, creed, color etc. matter little. He asked that “We dedicate ourselves to live in peace the way they fought and are buried in war…here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color…”

As such, bickering from your leaders and organization over green wreaths, Chrisitian or not, being laid at Arlington is trivial and desecrates the sacrifice of our fallen. And to use phrases like Christian “carpet bombing” is indeed a publicity stunt and an intellectually shallow argument. And I’m certain cheap words such as that will not be as enduring as Rabbi Rolan’s words. I’m quite certain that our great American men and women buried all over the globe would appreciate a wreath during Christmas or any warm gesture during any holiday regardless if it is from a “…Prostestant, Catholic or Jew.” If only your organization’s argument over wreaths wasn’t so petty and your outlook a little closer to Rabbi Rolan’s solemn sentiment…we could certainly fulfill his 1945 wish. After I’m buried in Arlington or some other National Cemetery [hopefully I have a few more decades or more left in me], you will be welcome at my headstone on any holiday or season regardless of religion, color, rich or poor. I will be happy to see you, and then together we can realize that our’s “ the highest and purest democracy.”


(name withheld)

See response from Rabbi Joel Schwartzman featured above.

To see other responses from
MRFF Advisory Board Members
Mike Farrell and James T. Currie,
and MRFF Board Member John Compere:
“Seasons greetings”

Dear Mikey,

Hope you are all well, and that during this time of year you have some time to slow down, and spend time with your family. I wanted to say how much I appreciated the support of the MRFF over the past year. You and your organization make a difference every day. I would not have been able to tell my story without you. And while it continues to be contentious here, the abuse has been documented for those that come after me, and can be use it as reference point in the future.I made a donation to your end of year drive 🙂 Thank you and for all those you serve!

(name withheld)
“very saddened yesterday to see the
lacunae for Jewish vets”

Hello Mr. Weinstein. I participated in Wreaths across America yesterday at Arlington Cemetery, and it was a wonderful experience. It happens that I was the only Jew in my collegial group of 10 or 12 coworkers participating together. When we observed that, try as we might, wreaths we laid at the stones of Jewish vets kept getting removed by ardent volunteers who believed they were doing right to remove them, I explained to some of those self-appointed policing volunteers that there was no reason to excude Jewish veterans from this mark of honor for their patriotism. As a Jew, I am especially respectful of and impressed by these veterans’ choice to be laid to rest at Arlington, rather than among family members, accessible for visitation by family members, close to their homes. To me it says that these veterans, like myself, identified themselves as Americans foremost. They were proud of that identity. And since wreaths are to my knowledge (bat mitzvahed in 1963 in a Conservative synagogue) NOT a Christian ritual or decoration, but rather an American one, I felt pained by the continued and pointless struggle to have them honored with their brothers in arms, the fellow Americans beside whom they chose to lie in eternal rest. When I researched the matter this morning and saw that your organization was apparently the authoritative source informing the decision taken at Arlington Cemetery and Wreaths across America to default to denying wreaths to the Jewish veterans, I felt compelled to write you to express my disagreement with your judgment and disappointment in your activism.

Thank you for hearing my voice. 

Sincerely, (name withheld)

To see response from
MRFF supporter Rabbi Joel Schwartzman:

Are an overpaid mouthpiece spewing garbage – leave the wreaths alone and go hide under the rock you crawled out from. You are not defending freedom but promoting ignorance. MERRY CHRISTMAS 

(name withheld)

To see response from
MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell:


(name withheld)

To see responses from
MRFF Advisory Board Members
Mike Farrell and James T. Currie,
and MRFF supporter Fr. Steve Dundas:
“A letter of concern-Remembrance on Veteran’s Graves
I didn’t realize we needed your approval first”

Mr. Weinstein, I have read and heard the ‘news’ blurb in regards to your statements regarding American’s recognizing each and EVERY Military Vet funeral plot.  I am older than you and perhaps that lends itself for greater wisdom, perhaps not.  In a day and age in this nation where the media and the politicians have just about got us all ready to give up on the ideals of this great nation, there are still some actions citizens take to try to show their appreciation and love to each and every buried Veteran is still shown to be at the very fabric of our society. I am not anyone’s definition of a “great” Christian, Muslim, Sikhs, Jewish, Festivus human being and to that I will say TO HELL WITH YOUR DUMBASS TITLES, if a person of any other faith than my own wants to show their love and respect for my loved one’s sacrifice with a symbol of thanks at their graveside, I just wish I could be there to hug them and share the most basic sadness of all, in that, losing a Child, Brother, Father, Sister, Mother in action and thank them from the bottom of my heart for their action.  You need to take a long hard look in the mirror tonight, look close, no even closer, God sees every line on your face and every thought in your mind, you will soon enough be face to face with the Great Creator and you can explain to him why you sought personal fame on the backs of people’s loved ones instead of embarrassing the act of kindness and love with open arms.  Your sad display of disrespect can be rectified by you clarifying your statement, only God knows if you even have that in your heart and soul…..Grinch indeed.  

(name withheld)

Second email from the same individual:

Hey Moron I mean Mickey,It looks like you are working on being right up there in popularity with Joe Biden and Adolf Hitler, congrats on your amazing accomplishment in life….you still have time to change, here’s hoping you do

(name withheld)

To see response from
MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell:
“Banning dog tags the last straw”

From not only my family but my comrades across 5 wars, one has the freedom to choose their beliefs. But when one imposes their beliefs on another, then that is everything we fought and still fight against.

Dog tags – do you really understand their purpose?

Whomever in the DoD gave the order to cease making these faith based dog tags is in for a series log civil lawsuits and letters to every Senator fur their expulsion under discrimination laws and from historic precedence.

But for you, as with all in the end, and from a retired Mustang Officer, now professional engineer with an IQ of 167, I’ll let God deal with you and your followers. The more we ply in science among my peers of every faith, there is no denying of some overarching force that some humanize, others just accept as us as unexplainable. To debt God us truly naive and ignores life itself, a mystery among mysteries some of us deal in daily with minor success.

But on those distant battlefields with no names, two words are sheets called out in the end – mom or God.

You have a right to your belief that I defend, but no right to deny others that right as you can dress as you like and they likewise.

A godless state? My family fought against and fled that socialist horror called the USSR.

Let the dog tags go – it has every vet even those like retired and disabled fighting mad. You just insulted the majority for a small minority, and a Republic is created and us for the majority, not so for a social democracy that we are not from day one or in the Constitution.

You minimized some of your good work with a totem most vets cherish and often cling to when they remember fallen comrades and are buried with.

Poor choice for a fight and with something vets now want retribution from their representatives.

Think before you act – a military person always weighs before affecting comrades.

(name withheld)

To see responses from
MRFF Advisory Board Members
Mike Farrell and James T. Currie,
and MRFF Board Member John Compere:
“Shields of Strength”


Guess who I will support. Hint: It won’t be MRFF.
Nota Bene: The Shields of Strength are provided to those who specifically REQUEST them.

Retired 1SG
Disabled Veteran (Vietnam & Iraq) 

To see responses from
MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell
and MRFF Board Member John Compere:

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