Sunday, December 14, 2008


As the economic disaster is upon us like a tsunami, then Bernard Madoff's perfidy follows it like a tidal wave. We are already learning of the impacts of Madoff's admitted fraud on foundations and donors from Boston to Los Angeles, from Palm Beach to New York, and all that we have learned so far is, I am afraid, but the tip of an iceberg that may threaten the growth and the stability of the communal enterprise in so many parts of our country. And all of this is happening while our federations' national institution has hung the "business as usual" sign on its door. The sad irony is, of course, that had the economy not cratered to the extent that it has, Madoff would have continued his Ponzi scheme unabated. While the profits rolled in, no one was watching, now the whole world is.

All that our enterprise is about is trust. Investors blindly trusted Madoff and they entrusted the apparent returns on their investment to their philanthropy. Our communities and our foundations trusted in the continuity of support as those who invested with this now admitted criminal trusted in the annual profits they received year after year. Our federation system has been built on trust -- trust is the bedrock on which our communities have been built. When the great federation endowments were built, speculative investments were unheard of -- returns on investment may have been small but they appeared to be secure. As fortunes grew an imperative seemed to emerge that demanded more speculation to build returns more quickly.

Now we once again will find our strength in Torah, in the Maimonedisian principles that have guided our philanthropy and in the values and inspiration that have built our communal institutions. And we will find the new leaders in whom we can trust and who will guide us on our way to new strength and renewed trust.

The results today, as they say, speak for themselves. It is all so terribly sad.


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