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Madoff scandal rocks Jewish philanthropic world

Area foundations take stock — or lose it

 
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A handful of local foundations appear to be unscathed by the fallout from Bernard Madoff’s alleged Ponzi scheme, but the full effects on donors have yet to be realized.

While the country’s economic downturn has taken place over the course of several months, this single instance was sudden and provided no time for those affected to make changes to limit the damage. Mark Charendoff of Englewood, president of the Jewish Funders Network, called the fallout on his organization’s members “absolutely devastating.”

“In a way, this is worse than the general economic downturn,” he said.

Unlike the unrest in the stock markets that has rocked the nonprofit donor base recently, the fallout from this scam is irreversible and, in some cases, complete.

“People understand that as much as the market went down, the market will go up. That’s not the case here,” Charendoff said. “There are some people who’ve just had all their money all in this one ‘safe place.’ That’s something that they just can’t recover from.”

One of the most notably hit organizations in New Jersey is the family foundation of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, reportedly one of the wealthiest members of Congress.

“Sen. Lautenberg was an investor in Bernard Madoff’s investment fund, primarily in the form of his family’s charitable foundation,” said Lautenberg’s spokesman, Scott Mulhauser.

According to a 2006 tax document obtained through the nonprofit tracking Website Guidestar.org, the foundation was a donor to more than two dozen Jewish and Israeli causes. Its contributions for 2006 totaled $765,509 to more than 100 organizations, including American Friends of Magen Dovid Adom, American Friends of Israel, the Anti-Defamation League, Chai Lifeline, Hadassah, UJA MetroWest, and UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey.

UJA-NNJ issued a statement on Tuesday that it has no connection with Madoff and remains unaffected.

“UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey and its Endowment Foundation did not have a relationship with Madoff, and we have confirmed with SEI, our investment manager, that no portion of the Endowment Foundation’s portfolio is invested with Madoff,” according to the statement.

Similarly, the Teaneck-based Russell Berrie Foundation had “zero exposure with Madoff,” said its president, Angelica Berrie. While the rest of the financial world takes a hit, Berrie looked at the situation as an opportunity for those who still have the means to make up for charities’ losses.

“The real emergency in the next few years is going to be the emergency in our community,” she said. “We have the opportunity to exercise our humanistic values.”

This new crisis within the fund-raising world will last years, too, said Charendoff.

“We don’t know how many years and we don’t know how severe it will be,” he said. “There are charities that are going to be affected that won’t even know about it for a year.”

While some organizations have no connection with Madoff and seemingly have been spared, they cannot yet account for all of their donors. For example, he said, a charity that received a six-figure gift from a donor this December may expect and plan for a similar gift next year.

“Next December is going to roll around and they’re going to find out the donor doesn’t have the capacity to make the gift,” he said.

The Jewish nonprofit world will eventually recover, though, he said.

“The only way we’re going to be able to minimize the damage to the charities we all care about is to work together to figure out what the needs really are — to figure out which programs can be salvaged, postponed, which organizations should merge,” he said. “We can’t avoid the damage but it is in our power to minimize it.”

 

More on: Madoff scandal rocks Jewish philanthropic world

 
 
 

‘Golden Boy’ Merkin charged with misleading Jewish investors, groups

Bernard Madoff is not the only trustee of Yeshiva University who resigned in shame last week.

While international attention continues to focus on Madoff, who faces charges for his alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme, some leaders in the Jewish community, particularly within modern Orthodox institutions, are expressing shock and anger at the role played by J. Ezra Merkin, a prominent investment guru and philanthropist who appears to have misled at least some investors.

 
 

Massachusetts community reeling from foundation collapse

The news sifted through the Jewish community north of Boston, sparking shock, sadness, and regret.

The Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, a pillar of the North Shore community and a supporter of popular programming like the Youth to Israel program, joined the mounting list of Jewish casualties of the still-unfolding Bernard Madoff financial scam.

 
 

The securities fraud of Bernard Madoff has rocked the Jewish nonprofit world — and the worst may be yet to come.

 
 
 
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Remembering Rochelle Shoretz

Sharsheret founder, dead of breast cancer at 42, recalled, through tears, with great love

The skies were stormy last Sunday when Rochelle Shoretz, 42, succumbed to complications from breast cancer.

Rain continued falling Monday as more than 500 people gathered at Gutterman and Musicant in Hackensack to mourn and eulogize the mother of two teenage sons, who lived in Teaneck and was the founder and executive director of Sharsheret, a locally based national nonprofit organization providing health information and support services for thousands of young Jewish women living with breast or ovarian cancer.

Many of her friends and relatives said that the rainy gray horizon seemed symbolic of the great light that was leaving this world.

In his eulogy, Rabbi Shalom Baum of Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck noted that this Shabbat’s Torah portion centers on the kindling of the eternal light in the Temple sanctuary. “It seems that, ironically, our light — Rochie Shoretz — has been extinguished,” he said. “But she would reject that conclusion categorically. … Rochie, you are already a light to so many.”

 

Welcome WIZO

Women’s International Zionist Organization opens local branch

What’s WIZO, and why might it make you think of Julius Caesar?

Think about dividing a large territory into regions.

WIZO is not a shortened version of Dorothy’s magic-performing over-the-rainbow friend the Wizard of Oz, but the very serious and very successful Women’s International Zionist Organization. If you haven’t heard of it (and if you live in the United States, the odds are that you haven’t), that’s where the Julius Caesar part comes in.

Caesar, remember, famously wrote that “All Gaul is divided into three parts.” The founders of women’s Zionist organizations were even more ambitious than the conquerors of the French. They divided the world into just two parts. Hadassah — an organization you most definitely have heard of — got the United States, “and WIZO got the world,” Galina Shenfeld said.

 

Turning point

Local man rises above injury to start home health aide venture

Ronald Gold’s life is so dramatic that it’s hard to resist the temptation to start with a cliché.

The story of his life is about the moment when everything changed, the second that split it inexorably into before and after. The time when he almost died, when his understanding of himself in the physical world ended, when through great pain he was reborn.

But really, the person Mr. Gold became after the terrible accident that rendered him paraplegic was a logical outgrowth of the person he was before. His integrity, athleticism, ambition, courage, tenacity, brains, competitiveness, and strength — as well as, yes, his deep Jewish connections — not only saved his life but allowed him to embark on this next part of it.

 

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Turning point

Local man rises above injury to start home health aide venture

Ronald Gold’s life is so dramatic that it’s hard to resist the temptation to start with a cliché.

The story of his life is about the moment when everything changed, the second that split it inexorably into before and after. The time when he almost died, when his understanding of himself in the physical world ended, when through great pain he was reborn.

But really, the person Mr. Gold became after the terrible accident that rendered him paraplegic was a logical outgrowth of the person he was before. His integrity, athleticism, ambition, courage, tenacity, brains, competitiveness, and strength — as well as, yes, his deep Jewish connections — not only saved his life but allowed him to embark on this next part of it.

 

Working for smart guns

Mahwah rabbi forms coalition to help cut back on gun violence

It would have been entirely understandable if Rabbi Joel Mosbacher wanted to ban all guns. Just collect them all, melt them into a lump, and be done with it.

Rabbi Mosbacher’s father, Lester Mosbacher, was eulogized as a “gentle soul” in 1992; he died, at 52, after he was shot by a burglar who was holding up his store on Chicago’s South Side.

His murder was the textbook definition of pointless — Mr. Mosbacher was shot in the head and arm by a petty thief who got nothing from the robbery and was tried, convicted, and then released for retrial, which never happened. Nothing ever happened, except that Mr. Mosbacher remained dead.

For years, Rabbi Mosbacher, the spiritual leader of Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, bottled his rage. And then, just a few years ago, he took its distilled essence, nourished by news stories of other shootings, equally senseless, like his father’s murder causing sudden, catastrophic, and lifelong pain to survivors as their own lives had to reweave themselves around a gaping hole, to lead a new campaign.

 

Working for smart guns

Rabbi Mosbacher reacts to the Charleston massacre Last week’s shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolin

Last week’s shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, which left nine people dead after their murderer, Dylann Roof, sat with them at Bible study for nearly an hour before spouting racists tropes as he gunned them down, has brought the issue, which always simmers just below the surface, to an angry boil.

“On the one hand, Charleston is another in a series of mass shootings that seem to happen almost weekly at this point,” Rabbi Mosbacher said. “That speaks to part of the core of this problem, which is access to guns. People will say all sorts of things. They say it is a question of mental health. Yes, it is — but it’s not fundamentally about mental health. I don’t think that we have significantly more mental health problems here than in Europe.” But laws controlling gun ownership are far more stringent in the rest of the Western world, and the numbers of shootings are correspondingly lower.

 
 
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