I attended a fairly large Bar Mitzva this past Shabbos. Hundreds of Jewish writers, editors, rabbis, scholars, lawyers, therapists, deans, foundation heads and opinion-makers were gathered together–none of whom seemed especially worried about the Madoff scandal. One intellectual said that “in the past, things had been a lot worse for the Jews.” The Director of a philanthropic foundation pointed out that “many non-Jews have also been responsible for financial cons and that non-Jews have also been victimized by Madoff.”
Few saw the Madoff scandal as necessarily a “Jewish” problem. They were mainly progressives, thinkers, sophisticated. They did not behave in such ways and they viewed themselves as the true Princes of Israel. If anyone was worried or ashamed, it didn’t show. I doubt that anyone at this Bar Mitzva had invested or lost money with Madoff. It was not that kind of crowd. But, it was Shabbos, we were at a simcha, and obliged to make merry. People were not supposed to be on worry-duty. And yet, a degree of slow-motion complacency, even denial, characterized the affect of those with whom I’d raised the subject. They did not seem to understand that we’ll all be on trial with Madoff, the innocent as well as the guilty, those who are poor, and those who are rich and greedy for more, those Jews who fight for justice for Palestinians and those Jews who fight for justice for religious settlers.
Currently in London, there is a display of cartoons at the Political Cartoon Gallery in London which focuses on Israel and the Jews in Arab and Western media. Many of the specific tortures that Saddam Hussein visited upon his own people and that Palestinian terrorist leaders have visited upon their Christian and Muslim populations, are now depicted as something that Israelis do to Palestinians.
As I scan the anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli cartoons coming out of the Arab world, it is hard to imagine how Madoff could inspire portrayals that are any worse: Blood drips from Jewish fangs, Palestine is presented as Auschwitz, Israeli tanks have Nazi insignia and bear down on Jesus as a Palestinian newborn, Israeli soldiers are shown killing Jesus Christ who is depicted as a kaffiyeh-wearing Palestinian. Oh yes, there are cartoons which also show old-fashioned Jewish capitalists, “Zionist Jews,” who are “vile, greedy, and who relish conspiracies.”
Stay tuned for worse. Going forward, perhaps the generic Jewish capitalist will have Madoff’s face.
Yes, of course, what Madoff did is unforgivable. He has gutted an entire generation of Jewish philanthropic wealth, destroyed trust within the Jewish philanthropic world and, more important, impoverished widows, orphans, and the elderly and, in so doing, endangered and shamed the Jewish people at a time when we have many real, not merely neurotically imagined enemies.
The Arab world expresses their Jew-hatred in cartoons. The western media expresses it in the biased way in which they cover events, including the Madoff Matter. Mainstream newspapers, including the New York Times, describe Madoff as Jewish, over and over again, in article after article, and they also describe his various “feeders” as Jewish too. Funny, they never mention the religion of any of his “feeders” and co-conspirators who are not Jewish.
Thus, in article after article, we are told that “feeder” Ezra Merkin is also Jewish–but we are never told the religious affiliations of Madoff’s Fairfield “feeders,” Walter M. Noel, Andre Piedrahita, Yanko Della Schiava, Phillip J. Toub, Jeffrey Tucker, Matthew Brown, or the religious affiliations of additional Madoff victims, including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Banco Santander, A.G. Edwards and Sons, Korea Life Insurance, Cathay Life, Samsung Investment and Securities, Bank Medici, (headed by Peter Scheithauer), etc.
One must wonder why.