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Aftershocks of Madoff scandal

‘A legacy of shame’

 
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State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) lost her life savings in the Bernard Madoff scam. Still, she says, “while this issue is important for me and for my family, I keep concentrating on the fact that I am probably better off than a good part of the country.”

Loretta Weinberg

“I’ve never lived above my means,” said Weinberg, who added that she has “satisfying work to do, which I plan to continue.”

Weinberg admits that the financial loss took her by surprise.

“I had never heard of Madoff before a week ago Friday,” Weinberg told The Jewish Standard. “I had no idea my IRA was invested with him.” Nor, she said, did she realize that she was in an investment group “with so many other Jewish people.”

“This is not how I planned to become well-known,” she joked.

Weinberg’s savings, along with those of many in her extended family, were invested with Stanley Chais, a Los Angeles money manager, who also fell victim to Madoff.

Among the other victims was the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity — something that Weinberg said “made me angry.”

“I hope that’s something Madoff has to think about every morning when he gets up and every night when he goes to bed,” she said. “I hope he knows that’s his legacy.”

To the extent that those connected with the scam were themselves Jewish, Weinberg said, “they clearly never absorbed Jewish values.”

Weinberg said that after an account of her loss appeared in the PolitickerNJ.com Reporter, anti-Semitic comments flowed onto the site, some of which have now been removed.

“I don’t think we should be worried,” she said, calling the scandal “just another reason for these people to express themselves. They were there before and they will be there after this is long forgotten,” she said.

Weinberg said the SEC should “do its job” and regulate such financial endeavors, looking more closely at their operations.

“I was under the impression that my money manager was investing in stocks and bonds,” she said, pointing out that she got regular statements and filed detailed tax forms.

She told the Standard that she has reached out to Rep. Steven Rothman (D-9) and Sen. Robert Menendez, asking them to research “laws, rules, and regulations concerning statutes of limitation.” For example, she said, she believes that there are three-year time limits to amend tax returns.

Her hope is that groups affected by the Madoff scam will be able to amend tax returns in which they paid taxes on — it turns out — non-existent investments.

“What’s most important is what’s happened to Jewish philanthropy,” she said, citing foundations that will no longer be able to donate to Jewish causes.

Reverting to the theme of anti-Semitism, Weinberg stressed, “We can’t be afraid of it. We have to face it.” But, she added, “the little worms who want to come out should put their names [on their attacks].”

“We have to speak out and confront anti-Semites,” she said. “We have nothing to be embarrassed about. Even banks get robbed.”

 

More on: Aftershocks of Madoff scandal

 
 
 

‘Taken by a maestro’

Burt Ross has learned many things since the Madoff debacle. For starters, he said, he should have listened to his wife, Joan, when she suggested six months ago that he take some money out of the Ascot Hedge Fund, a key player in the scandal.

“I told her she was crazy. That was the only thing that wasn’t losing money,” he said.

 
 

‘It’s horrible what this man did’

While Yeshiva University was hard-hit by the Madoff scandal, to the tune of $110 million, it is not the only educational institution to suffer. The damage has spread to Israel, and the Technion Institute in Haifa is among the big losers: The university, which has been called Israel’s MIT, lost NIS 25 million (about $6.5 million), and its American fund-raising arm, American Technion Society, lost what amounts to $72 million.

 
 
 
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A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

The converso’s dilemma

Local group goes to New Mexico to learn about crypto-Jews

Imagine that you were raised as a Catholic. Then one day — perhaps as a beloved parent or grandparent lay dying and leaned over to whisper something in your ear — you learned that your family once was Jewish. Your ancestors were converted forcibly some 500 years ago.

For those people all over the world who have had that experience, the next step is not entirely clear. Do they jump in with both feet and vigorously pursue their new Jewish identities, or do they simply go about their business, choosing to do nothing with this new information? These dilemmas, and more, were the subject of a recent Road Scholar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The topic — “New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews” — continues to fascinate both Jews and non-Jews, as evidenced by the religious identity of the attendees. Among those participating in this month’s session — there are 10 such programs held each year — were five residents from our area, including this author.

 

Paying it forward

Remembering Gabby Reuveni’s generous spirit

Just a glance at the web page created in memory of Gabby Reuveni of Paramus gives some indication of the number of people she touched and — through the ongoing efforts of her family — she continues to touch.

Killed two years ago in Pennsylvania by a driver who swerved onto the shoulder of the road, where she was running, Gabby, who was 20, was “an extremely aware and kind person,” her mother, Jacqueline Reuveni, said. “We’re continuing her legacy.”

The family has undertaken both public and private “acts of kindness,” she said, from endowing scholarships to meeting local families’ medical bills.

According to her father, Michael Reuveni, Gabby — then a student at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the school’s track team — was a victim of vehicular homicide.

 

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Israel launching drive to void Goldstone Report

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Netanyahu said he had asked his security adviser, Ya’akov Amidror, to establish a committee focused on “minimizing the damage caused” by the report.

 

Facebook and Zuckerberg does an about-face and deletes Palestinian page calling for a Third Intifada

Following widespread criticism, a Facebook page calling for a third Palestinian intifada against Israel was removed on March 29. On the Facebook page, Palestinians were urged to launch street protests following Friday May 15 and begin an uprising as modelled by similar uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan. Killing Jews en masse was emphasized.

According to the Facebook page, “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews.” The page had more than 340,000 fans. However, even while the page was removed, a new page now exists in its place with the same name,  “Third Palestinian Intifada.”

 

Did heated rhetoric play role in shooting of Giffords?

WASHINGTON – The 8th District in southern Arizona represented by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords comprises liberal Tucson and its rural hinterlands, which means moderation is a must. But it also means that spirits and tensions run high.

Giffords’ office in Tucson was ransacked in March following her vote for health care reform — a vote the Democrat told reporters that she would cast even if it meant her career. She refused to be cowed, but she also took aim at the hyped rhetoric. She cast the back-and-forth as part of the democratic process.

 
 
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