Monday, December 15, 2008

Bernard Madoff

There is very little that I could add to the headlines and analyses of the Ponzi scheme run by Madoff.It isn't the enormity of the crime that shocks me alone,nor is it the fact that the most sophisticated investors,banks and foundations are involved.

Rather it is a two-fold disgust.

One is the theme of a "Jewish" element that is present .It is fodder for the anti-semites who think the Jews control the banks and all wealth.What greater "chilul Hashem"(desecration of G-d's name) could there be,when besides the Merkins,Spielberg,Zuckerman and Lautenberg etc. are the Jewish institutions who placed their faith in one individual without proper investigation.It is not just greed, but the ego experience of being able to show your colleagues how brilliant and connected you are, that you can beat the market, and bring to the table greater returns than anyone else.Thus you immediately gain respect and before you know it you are asked to serve on the Board.Before long you are on the investment committee and diverting investments to your buddies, never asking the proper questions.
The WSJ story today highlites the schemes effect on Jewish philanthropy.
Of course how could a human being steal the dreams and aspirations of friends and charities,and look at himself in the mirror?
One question that comes to mind is why should Elie Weisel,who has made his life post-holocaust preaching and writing as well as raising huge amounts of funds for his foundation be sitting on millions and millions of dollars in a Foundation which has as its goal tolerance, when that money could be used today for Jewish education?The holocaust wiped out generations of our people.Tolerance is nice ,but pie in the sky.Let the Gentiles teach tolerance for it is they who destroyed its concept over the ages. Jewish education and avoidance of assimilation is our sole key to survival.
Similarly as the economy sours and Jewish poverty rises, and parents find it difficult to pay for day-school and yeshiva education,do organizations need billions invested in Foundations,when the current need is so great?
Perhaps G-d is sending a message?
The second point that comes to mind,is the importance of one common denominator when we look at our communal structure-MONEY
The Boards, Machers,dinner guests and the committees, for the most part point out that many of the names we see would not be there absent their wealth.
ETHICS,intellect, vision play a minor role.SADLY ETHICAL HISTORY IS LOW ON THE TOTEM POLE!
Of course as one who led a major organization I was as guilty as anyone.
There has to be a new approach to support charities.
One way which I have advocated for years is the merger of similar oriented organizations.How many dinners and professional costs would we save if the OU and Young Israel would merge?The RZA as a questionably viable organization could likewise benefit by becoming an affiliate.
How much money and fund raising would be saved in office space,office help etc. if Emunah Women and Amit would merge in the US?
Why do we need the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress,the Anti-Defamation League , the American section of the World Jewish Congress and the Weisenthal Center all "fighting" anti-semitism ?
Within the other religious streams,there is much room for consolidation.
Times are bad,and non-profits have to step up to the plate and think about the future and the true priorities of our people.