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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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Laughing with Joan

I made Joan Rivers laugh.

Of course she made me laugh, like she did to millions of others through her decades-long, often unfiltered, and ever-funny career, but yes, I made Joan Rivers laugh.

At the time, I was working at the celebrity-obsessed New York Post, and as the features writer for its women’s section, I had reason to ring up the raspy-voiced, Brooklyn-born blonde for a quickie. I had to grab a quote for some story that I was writing. As I recall, the conversation had turned to food, a favorite subject of the Jewish woman on my end of the phone, and, apparently, of that Jewish woman on the other end as well. Joan told me that she just adored the creamed spinach served at the legendary Brooklyn restaurant, Peter Luger’s — a must-have accompaniment to its famous and robust steaks. Joan told me she would dine there with a hairdresser-to-the-stars, the late Kenneth Battelle. (She kept her physique petite with this practice: She never ate anything after 3 p.m. If she did find herself dining with someone, she popped Altoids to keep her mouth busy.)

 

Cookin’ it up!

Tales of a Teaneck kitchen prodigy

How did 12-year-old Eitan Bernath of Teaneck come to be on the Food Network’s popular cooking show “Chopped”?

“He’s always been curious and he likes science,” said his mother, Sabrina Bernath. “He thinks it’s cool to mix flavors and watch things rise. He also likes to make people happy,” she added, pointing out that he had just brought his friends a freshly baked batch of cinnabuns.

For Eitan, a student at Yavneh Academy in Paramus, cooking is more than just a hobby. Struggling for the right word, the fledgling chef — whose website, cookwithchefeitan.com, will launch this week — described his relationship with the culinary arts as a “passion.”

 

Policies are the best policy

Teaneck synagogue forum addresses child sexual abuse

Does your synagogue have policies in place to protect children from sexual abuse? Do your children’s schools and camps?

Such policies, Dr. Shira Berkovits told a meeting in Teaneck on Sunday night, can make a difference to children’s safety.

Dr. Berkovits is a consultant for the Department of Synagogue Services at the Orthodox Union, and she is developing a guide to preventing child sexual abuse in synagogues. She was speaking at Teaneck’s Congregation Rinat Yisrael, as part of a panel on preventing child sexual abuse co-sponsored by three other Teaneck Orthodox congregations: Netivot Shalom, Keter Torah, and Lubavitch of Bergen County.

 

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

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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?

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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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