Monday, December 15, 2008

Madoff Ponzi Scandal a Shonda for American Jewish Community

Bloomberg reports that victims of Bernard Madoff's scheme reportedly include a number of prominent Jewish charities, in addition to Palm Beach machers who could afford to lose millions:
The Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation in Salem, Massachusetts discontinued operations on Friday because it invested with Madoff. This year the nonprofit sent 124 local teens to Israel.

Elie Wiesel’s Foundation

Madoff appeared to handle all the investments of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, the foundation of the 80-year-old Nobel Prize winner and Auschwitz survivor, according its 2006 tax return. The foundation sponsors an annual ethics contest and after-school programs for Ethiopian Jews in Israel, among other programs. Treasurer Elisha Wiesel, Wiesel’s son, didn’t return a call.

The Madoff fiasco will pummel Jewish causes and education. Yet all nonprofit sectors may feel the strain. Last year, the $19 million Madoff Family Foundation donated $50,000 to New York’s Public Theater, where Madoff’s 44-year-old son, Mark, is a trustee. The year before, it gave $30,000 to the Robin Hood Foundation, a charity popular on Wall Street, according to the Madoff’s foundation tax return.

A Public Theater spokesman didn’t return an e-mail from Bloomberg News. Mark Madoff didn’t return a call or respond to an e-mail. Robin Hood Executive Director David Saltzman declined to comment.

Less to Give

“Will it affect my philanthropy?” said Joyce Z. Greenberg, a retired financial adviser in Houston who had money with Madoff for two decades. “It will.”

Greenberg is a donor to the Jewish Heritage Program of the World Monuments Fund, which has supported conservation in 20 countries. Greenberg and others are waiting for an accounting of how much, if any, of their investments they’ll salvage.

SAR Academy, an orthodox Jewish school in Riverdale, New York, which extends from kindergarten through high school, had over a third of its $3.7 million endowment with Madoff, according to an e-mail circulated by the school.