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The Madoff Debacle and the Jewish Community

The Jerusalem Post has an article about the extent of the Madoff debacle and its potential fallout for 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.”

2 Responses to “The Madoff Debacle and the Jewish Community”

  1. 1
    Moshe Kranc:

    I want to say something nice about Madoff, based on the Talmud. “Rabbi Abahu said in the name of Rabbi Lazar: We must be grateful to the cheaters among those who collect charity. Were it not for those cheaters, then each time a beggar asked a man for a donation, and the man refused to give, then that man would immediately be liable to punishment.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Pe’ah 8:9).
    אמר רבי אבהו אמר רבי לעזר: צריכין אנו להחזיק טובה לרמאין שבהן, שאילולא הרמאין שבהן היה אחד מהן תובע צדקה מן האדם ולא נותן לו מיד היה נענש. (ירושלמי פאה, פרק ח, הלכה ט)
    I’d say that Madoff has given a free pass for years to come to anyone who refuses to donate to Jewish charities. (




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