February 26, 2009
The Jewish banker with the really big heart
In his speech last night to a joint session of Congress, President Obama singled out a Jewish banker not getting a bad rap for the financial crisis. While Herb and Marion Sandler got rich by selling a troubled savings and loan to Wachovia and Bernard Madoff stayed rich by out and out stealing from beacons of American Jewry, Leonard Abess is being haled a hero.
Abess’ story, which I learned of last week while searching for info on Beverly Hills-based City National Bank, couldn’t being getting attention at a better time. Since the global economy collapsed in September, Jews are getting much more than their fare share of scapegoating. Then Madoff heaped on an extra helping for anti-Semites, confirming all the worst stereotypes about greedy Jewish moneylenders and making Jews wistful for Shylock.
“Guys, the naked truth is that there’s something wrong with you. You are extrmely evil and hateful and should have no right calling anyone “antisemite”. And so what if someone hates you? It’s like hating cholera or aids. You guys are the disease. Everything you touch turns into sh—,” a commenter identified as Marcellus wrote in one of my original posts about Madoff—and there were plenty of comments with far more venom.
But when Abess sold his City National Bank of Florida, he did a real mitzvah and gave $60 million in bonuses back to his employees. Here’s what Obama had to say and a little extra reporting from JTA:
It’s natural for Jews to kvell about such generosity. And that’s what I thought William Daroff was doing, until I realized that “twittered” was capitalized. I follow Daroff’s tweets, but I guess I missed that one; funny to see it mentioned in a JTA article.
Anyway, the pride in Abess’ action is well placed.