Swindler’s List

That’s the term L.A.’s Jewish Journal uses for Jews ripped off in Bernie Madoff’s $50 billion fraud. Locally, all the big media outlets are chasing the fleeced, but one site to watch is our own American Jewish World.

AJW’s longtime editor/publisher Mordecai Specktor checks in with a report that doesn’t name new names but has all kinds of details. One local family lost $26 million; another $10 million, Specktor writes:

“A lot of people lost everything,” said a Minneapolis-area financial professional with personal knowledge of Madoff’s local clients. He said that he could not divulge names of Oak Ridge members who were victimized by Madoff and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Some people are going to have to sell their homes, their jewelry,” he said, regarding bilked investors who belonged to the predominantly Jewish country club in Hopkins. He added that some individuals approaching retirement have lost their life savings in the Madoff scam; they may have to return to work.

Specktor quotes Harold Roitenberg, who’s gone public with his losses, saying, “I think all of the Jewish organizations will have problems.” Fortunately, it sounds like the Minneapolis and St. Paul Jewish Federations didn’t invest with Madoff, but of course, many of their donors did.

One of my favorite local efforts is Jewish Community Action, which puts into action the principles I was taught in temple. JCA has fought like hell over the years for affordable housing and community reinvestment, and did magnificent work bringing attention to worker mistreatment at a Kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa.

I asked JCA Executive Director Vic Rosenthal if his group had experienced any direct fallout yet from the Madoff swindle, and he said they hadn’t.

However, he confirmed a point in Specktor’s article; Jewish groups, like nonprofits everywhere, were already suffering with the bad economy. JCA, whose budget once tipped $600,000, was already down below $550,000. Who knows how far it might fall if the Madoff scandal picks off donors?

So here’s the deal: Hanukah starts sundown Sunday. If your Jewish household is like mine, there are eight days of presents ahead for the kids. Please take at least one of those nights and make a charitable donation in their name; it doesn’t have to be a Jewish group, but given current circumstances, it might be especially appropriate.

There is a list of worthy causes here, and I encourage readers to list their favorites in the comments.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by D Miklethun on 12/19/2008 - 03:30 pm.

    My family has chosen a local food bank, Second Harvest Heartland as our primary charity. They make your charitable dollar go far, as they state that they’re able to distribute nine dollars worth of groceries for every dollar donated.


    (Be sure and check with your employer to see if they have a matching donation program.)

  2. Submitted by Rich Kronfeld on 12/22/2008 - 12:21 pm.

    Most all the Minnesota Jewish philanthropic organizations will be affected by not only the bad economy, but now Madoff. And along with that bad economy, the need has never been greater at the Jewish Family and Children’s Service. Their need for money for all their great programs to help people is climbing while pledge money is going to drop. JFCS has very dedicated people working several cases at once to help people weather this economic crisis. All the Jewish non-profits are going to need help from all of us in the community. We cannot expect a few at the top to do all financial heavy lifting anymore.

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