The victims of Bernard L. Madoff’s massive Wall Street swindle – perhaps as much as $50 billion, will include many Jewish non-profits that have been large beneficiaries of Madoff’s contributions.
The epicenter of pain may well be Yeshiva University, where Madoff sat on the Board of Trustees and was chairman of the Sy Syms School of Business. (YU says he has resigned all postiions with the college.)
I contacted YU this morning to discuss the matter and received back this terse statement from Hedy Shulman, director of media relations:
“We are shocked at this revelation. Our lawyers and accounts [sic] are investigating all aspects of his relationship to the university. We reserve our comments until we complete our investigation.”
Madoff has also been a large supporter of Gift of Life, which matches bone marrow donors and has saved hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives. Madoff and his wife Ruth, were honored for their support not long ago at a Gala dinner at the Grand Hyatt in New York attended by more than 700 guests. Master of Ceremonies was Tony Award winning actor, Ron Rifkin.
If government allegations against Madoff are accurate, he may well turn out to be the biggest fraud in the history of Wall Street, which has had its share of big schemers. Those looking to blame America’s economic crisis on the Jews – and yes there are some – will now have a poster boy for their crusade.
At the moment, there are so many important, unanswered questions. Among them: Did Madoff, who is also a major Democratic fundraiser, use ill-gotten gains to fuel his charitable giving? Hard to image that he did not.
Will any of his victims be able to recover donated funds? Sadly, it seems unlikely that most of those who trusted Madoff with their retirement savings and family estates will ever be made whole. The hard question is should YU and other charities ‘refund’ Madoff’s donations?
How many of Madoff’s clients are Jewish is unclear, perhaps never to be known. No doubt, however, many of his clients were also members of the tribe.
An early read of the financial press also suggests that some non-profits, including YU, may have invested part of their endowments directly or indirectly with Madoff’s firm.
The Jewish world has only just begun to sense the enormity of Madoff’s mischief. The worst is still to come.
p.s. Yeshiva University has already made a mess of its handling of this public relations crisis. I will be writing about it in The Memo next week. Take a look at this blogger who has documented YU’s effort to sandblast Madoff off its websites.