The Road Ahead
Photo by Brocktopia
I am in the United States for the first time in several years and as expected, the hot topic of conversation is Bernie Madoff. Theories abound but few answers seem apparent. Here are some of the questions that I’ve heard around the Hanukkah table. I’m interested to hear your thoughts.
- How did this happen? Why was no one monitoring? Isn’t the whole point of overhead organizations to prevent something like this from occurring ?
- How could so many organizations run by smart people fall for this scheme? (One person said that foundations had to “beg Madoff to take them on”)
- Did Madoff make any money out of this himself? What was the goal of the whole operation?
- Who knew? What did they know? When did they know it? Could Madoff possibly have pulled this off alone?
- How long had this been doing on?
- Is Madoff a sociopath?
- How will this affect the Jewish world? Israel?
- How will the Jewish world recover? How long will it take?
- Was Madoff anti-semitic? How could he rip out the knees of people and foundations he personally supported? Not only did Madoff’s own family foundation suffer major losses, but so did the foundations of those he knew personally, as well as at least one foundation that he was connected to by marriage
- How much of a loss will the government suffer from the Madoff scheme? Economists estimate that the government will lose millions from adjusted back taxes and future income drops, but exact figures are unknown. Foundations who claimed income on their taxes according to Madoff’s investments can now adjust it according to real income earned and regain some of their money. Also, as foundations and philanthropists will have less income, they will be taxed less, costing the federal government more
- What is an appropriate punishment for Madoff?
- Why doesn’t Madoff’s punishment (free movement during the day, house arrest) reflect the severity of his crime?
— Read more on Birthright and Charles Ponzi himself —
Many people were concerned about the effect on Birthright-Israel, with an emphasis on Sheldon Adelson’s donations, even though Adelson was more affected by the economic crisis than by Madoff. Boston Jews, from what I’ve heard, seem to have the impression that Birthright is going under because the first foundation to announce that it was closing due to the Madoff scandal was the Lappin Foundation, located in Boston, which funded local Birthright trips. (Adelson is also a Boston boy.) I am not sure if this disproportionate sense of concern about Birthright is felt across the U.S. as much as it is in the Northeast. What are your impressions?
On Charles Ponzi
Did you know that Charles Ponzi was from Boston? Someone told the story that Charles Ponzi used to stand on a soapbox on the Boston Commons advertising his investments. The storyteller’s father had invested $100 one week and made $110 by the next. Fortunately for him, that one-time investment was the end of his business with Ponzi.
Let’s use the people present as a microcosm for the Jewish world. Sitting around the Hanukkah table were approximately 12 people who were well educated, committed Jews. Among them, they personally knew the philanthropists and staff of four organizations that had been slammed by Madoff. Does that ring true for your experience and the people you know as well?
Learn more about Jewish philanthropy:
- “12 Jewish Charities Featured on Forbes’ Top 200 List”
- “Assessing the Forward 50: What We Can Learn About Top American Jewish Philanthropists”
- “JTA’s ‘Reimagining Federated Philanthropy’– What You Need to Know”
- “Jewish Philanthropy Study Reveals Jews Give More Generously Than They Receive”
Respond to thoughts on my mind:
- “Predicting the Future of Jewish Philanthropy: Thoughts On My Mind”
- “The Future of the Israeli Hi-Tech Sector: Questions On My Mind”
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