1/25/09

Daily News Gossip: Outrage at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue Over J. Ezra Merkin


It's rare day indeed when Rush and Molloy report in "Celebrity Side Dish" on the gossip at an Orthodox shul:
As if the Fifth Avenue Synagogue hasn’t suffered enough with the Madoff scandal, now the congregation, which includes Ronald Perelman, is torn over whether his go-between, synagogue president Ezra Merkin, should be chairman. An insider said, “Some members put him up” for the position, now occupied by Ira Rennert. “A lot of people are outraged. They’re threatening to resign.” Merkin’s attorney, Andrew Levander, said Merkin’s term ends in April and “usually the retiring president is named chairman.”
It would seem that Ezra will have to bring a sizable bag of cash as a donation (checks in this case not accepted) to keep his standing as a member, let alone as a macher, in this shul.

Here is a reflection on Madoff, Merkin and New York synagogues from a column by Barbara Probst Solomon, the United States cultural correspondent for Spain's newspaper-of-record, El País of Madrid:
En su búsqueda de respetabilidad, Madoff se centró en la pequeña sinagoga ortodoxa de la Quinta Avenida a la altura de las calles sesenta y tantos. A diferencia del enorme y elegante Temple Emmanuel, constituido a mediados del siglo XIX por judíos alemanes que preferían una religión light, o la rígida sinagoga de españoles y portugueses, con sus profundas raíces históricas, o la amplia Sinagoga Central -con su vasta congregación y sus mujeres cantoras, dedicada al ecumenismo, la cultura, la música, etcétera-, todos ellos lugares llenos de individuos que tenían conexiones propias con Wall Street, la Sinagoga de la Quinta Avenida, más aislada, ofrecía a Madoff una oportunidad única para controlar su entorno. No tuvo que conquistar más a que a una sola persona, su presidente, el gestor de fondos alternativos Ezra Merkin, que, sin saberlo -o sin preocu-parse-, le abrió la puerta a las organizaciones benéficas judías a las que posteriormente robó.

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