Jewish Journal


December 18, 2008

Count Minneapolis Jews on Swindler’s List


Between $200-$600 million dollars.
That’s one estimate on how much money members of the Minneapolis Jewish community lost to Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
“Many, many people are wiped out,” someone close to that community told The Jewish Journal.
(More details later from our reporter Dean Rotbart).
The information is borne out in articles that have appeared in The New York Times, AP, The Wall Street Journal and today in the Minneapolis-based Jewish weekly, American Jewish World.
According to this story by Mordecai Spector (http://www.ajwnews.com/archives/401)

“Members of Oak Ridge Country Club who invested with Wall Street insider Bernard Madoff have lost tens of millions of dollars, according to knowledgeable sources in the local Jewish community.
Federal authorities arrested Madoff, 70, on Dec. 11, after he admitted to running a massive pyramid scheme that bilked investors of as much as $50 billion.
Locally, one family lost $26 million that they invested with Madoff, and another family is out $10 million, sources told the AJW this week.
“A lot of people lost everything,” said a Minneapolis-area financial professional with personal knowledge of Madoff’s local clients. He said that he could not divulge names of Oak Ridge members who were victimized by Madoff and spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Some people are going to have to sell their homes, their jewelry,” he said, regarding bilked investors who belonged to the predominantly Jewish country club in Hopkins. He added that some individuals approaching retirement have lost their life savings in the Madoff scam; they may have to return to work.”
...In a statement issued Tuesday, UJFC, the St. Paul-area federation, noted “that many outstanding members of the worldwide and local Jewish philanthropic community are victims and we are especially saddened that this alleged fraud will impact so many who have done so much with their own resources to help the most vulnerable among us. To the best of our knowledge at this time, we believe that the St. Paul Jewish community will have limited exposure to this tragic event.”

Spector’s interview with investor Harold Roitenberg tells a wide-spread story

“In addition to my own money [invested with Madoff’s firm], I had the money in a charitable lead trust that I used for making contributions, and that’s gone,” Roitenberg said.
Roitenberg and his wife, Ruth, are among the leading philanthropists in the local Jewish community. They were the lead donors for the Sholom Community Alliance’s Roitenberg Family Assisted Living Residence in St. Louis Park, and for the new Roitenberg Family Adult Day Center under construction at the new Rossy and Richard Shaller Family Sholom East Campus in St. Paul.
“I have been in touch with my bank and they know I lost money,” Roitenberg commented. “I’m trying to salvage whatever I can from this debacle.”

Here’s how Madoff got his hooks into Minneapolis, according to an AP story:

The Associated Press reported last Friday that Madoff targeted the Jewish community here, beginning about 20 years ago. Mike Engler was Madoff’s liaison to the Jewish country club set, according to the AP story. Engler, who lived in Minnetonka, died in


An Oak Ridge member recalled that Madoff was treated like visiting royalty when he visited the country club some years ago. The AJW was not able to confirm that any information about losses suffered by investors who were members of Hillcrest Country Club.
Robert Barrows, immediate past president and a current board member of Oak Ridge Country Club, told the Jewish World that the country club has a policy of not commenting on its members.
A friend of a local couple who lost their life savings in the Madoff investment scam recalled that the elderly couple referred to Madoff as “Uncle Bernie.”
In addition to local investors who lost large sums of money - as well as prominent figures in the American Jewish community, including Steven Spielberg, Elie Wiesel, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Mort Zuckerman, et al. - to Madoff, the AJW was told that relatively small investors also were victimized.
“I never knew that you could have a relatively small account with that guy,” said a local reputable source, who previously thought that Madoff’s threshold was at least a million dollars. “He made himself out to be extremely exclusive,” but some families invested as little as $50,000 with Madoff’s scam operation in New York City.
“People who got in with the small dollars” felt as if Madoff had granted a “personal favor to let them in,” said the AJW’s source. “You felt privileged to have your money with him, because he always made money, year in and year out - even when Warren Buffett lost money, this guy still made money.”



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