TAP data helped reveal WhatsApp story


By Eva Herscowitz

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Records from IRW’s Accountability Project led reporters from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency down an investigative rabbit-hole, enabling them to elucidate the finances of Jan Koum. Koum, the famously reclusive WhatsApp founder, has “quietly become one of the largest donors to Jewish causes in the world,” JTA reporter Asaf Shalev found in a data-driven investigation.

Koum, a Ukrainian-born Jew who fled Eastern Europe for California in 1992, piqued JTA’s interest because the 46-year-old businessman remained mum when Russia invaded Ukraine. His silence prompted Shalev to investigate Koum; using IRW’s TAP site.

Shalev discovered that the Koum Family Foundation was a big-time donor to Chabad Lubavitch, the international Hasidic Orthodox Jewish movement. That find helped Shalev unravel Koum’s personal finances, making transparent a businessman whose causes of choice range from the humanitarian to the far-right.  

Most recently, the Koum Family Foundation donated around $17 million to the European Jewish Association, a Brussels-based organization that offers housing, food and clothing to Ukrainians displaced by the war. Shalev also identified several Koum contributions that “reflect his right-wing political views on Israel,” including $6 million to Friends of Ir David, a group that advocates for the expansion of Jewish settlement in Arab East Jerusalem.

Thanks to IRW’s Accountability Project and JTA’s dogged reporting, the financial dealings of a billionaire businessman are a little less opaque.