Because it doesn’t seem you can hear enough rabbinic commentary on the Bernard Madoff affair—actually, I do find fascinating the perspectives of leaders like Rabbi David Wolpe, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rabbi Harold Schulweis, et al—Rabbi Marc Gellman of Temple Beth Torah in Melville, N.Y., writes in Newsweek that, as we’ve learned, Madoff has brought a great shame upon the Jewish people:
Not since Julius Rosenberg spied for the Soviet Union has one person so damaged the image and the self-respect of American Jews. I am not comfortable with the fact that so many of the articles about you specifically identify your prominent place in the Jewish community. Ken Lay of Enron shame was never identified as a “prominent Protestant energy broker.” The most aggressive accusers of the governor of Illinois seldom describe him as “the prominent Serbian-American governor of Illinois.” Yes, it is unfair that your Jewishness has become part of the storyline. But you just reminded the bigots who grew up playing The Jew Game that it still strikes a familiar chord. You wiped out Joe Lieberman’s accomplishments. You revived ancient bigotry against our people. You gave credence to the horrid accusations about Jews being untrustworthy and greedy. One offensive paper has a column called “Jews in the News,” which focuses on some Jewish criminal or other to remind their sickening readers of the legitimacy of anti-Semitism. You are not just one of the “Jews in the news” they seek. You are the apotheosis of their hate-filled world. You have given the Jew-haters material for a decade of hate gardening. You single-handedly revived the Jew game. This is what you have done.
Most of those you’ve deceived will learn to live and give in new and perhaps more modest ways. Unlike your evil, which has been stopped, nothing will stop their courage and compassion. Some of your victims will no doubt be more severely wounded in circumstance and in spirit, but none of them, I pray, will surrender to your assault. Their friends will not leave them. Their children and grandchildren will not refuse to hug them and kiss them. After their initial trauma subsides, they will, I believe, move on to cling to the blessings that cannot ever be stolen.
You, on the other hand, will lose everything—everything! From this day to the end of your life, there will be none who will trust you. To be mistrusted by everyone is an enormous curse and you have brought this all upon yourself, and for what purpose? You were supposed to be the master of risk and reward and you risked everything from everyone for what reward? You have not just made a bad calculation about how money works, you have made a bad calculation about how life works. You gave no value to what matters and all value to what does not matter at all.
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