The Madoff Debacle and the Jewish Community
A partial review by The Jerusalem Post Monday revealed at least $600 million in Jewish charitable funds were wiped out by the collapse of a Wall Street investment firm, with perhaps another $1.5 billion in unconfirmed losses.
Jonathan Sarna sees far-reaching repercussions,
The Madoff crisis marked an unprecedented loss to the “Jewish economy” – the networks of Jewish institutions, donors and charities that include universities, schools, hospitals and community centers, agreed Jonathan Sarna, a scholar of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. “I know of nothing [in history] on this scale,” he said. Sarna predicted that the wholesale destruction of fortunes and endowments would prove to be a turning point in American Jewish institutional life, which over the past twenty years has moved from a model of community funding – collecting small donations from a broad swath of donors – to focusing on a handful of “cowboy” mega-donors who launched hugely successful programs like birthright israel outside of the traditional federation system. “The reduction of billions – not millions but billions – in the Jewish economy means that there is just not going to be enough money to sustain all the institutions and initiatives that have been created,” Sarna told The Jerusalem Post. “We will be a poorer community for that.”