12/20/08

Minnesota Jews Lost $300 Million in Madoff Fraud

Our friend, Avraham Ettedgui, a prominent Rabbi and former director of the Minneapolis Talmud Torah, comments in the StarTribune about the fallout in the Twin Cities Jewish community from the Madoff affair and its meaning for the community.
Jewish groups reeling over Madoff scheme: The scandal has stirred anger and resentment in the Twin Cities.
By CHRIS SERRES, Star Tribune

...With Hanukkah beginning at sundown Sunday, local rabbis said they are trying to put the Madoff scandal in the context of the Jewish holiday, and the eternal struggle against human fallibility, vanity and greed. "This is a reminder that people have to come back to goodness, because nothing else lasts," said Avraham Ettedgui, the rabbi of Sharei Chesed Congregation in Minnetonka.

Total losses to the Jewish community in the Twin Cities are still unknown, but some local attorneys representing investors with Madoff say at least $300 million has evaporated. Many affected were members of the predominantly Jewish Oak Ridge Country Club in Hopkins, where Madoff's name and reputation spread by word of mouth...
The Werner Foundation had assets of $1.6 million and posted gains of $111,943 from Madoff securities in 2007, according to forms filed with the IRS. The foundation gave money to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Walker Art Center, Sholom Foundation and the Minneapolis Jewish Federation....

Other local organizations that had investments with Madoff include the Minneapolis-based Phileona Foundation, which last year gave $2.3 million to more than 60 charities and causes, including many Jewish organizations; the Charles and Candice Nadler Family Foundation in Excelsior; and the Steven C. & Susan L. Fiterman Charitable Foundation in Golden Valley, which reported a loss of $33,589 last year on its Madoff investments, according to forms filed with the IRS...

As director of the Talmud Torah Foundation of Minneapolis, Rabbi Avraham Ettedgui plays a key role in raising funds to support scholarships and educational programs. But Ettedgui said he "feels uncomfortable calling certain donors," because he's not sure who might have invested with Madoff. "The people who are hurt by this also happen to be those who are the most generous," he said. "It ties our hands a bit."

Ettedgui noted that some people in the Jewish community feel "a sense of shame" that Madoff was considered a pillar of the Jewish community. "He brings disrespect to our people," he said. "It's like stealing from your own family." more

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