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Spinning the Jewishness of Bernie Madoff

Andrew Anderson

June 29, 2009 

In the weeks before Bernie Madoff’s sentencing to what amounts to a life sentence, the professional “spin doctors” at various Jewish advocacy organizations were doubtless working overtime.  They know that his sentencing will be the top story in many media outlets around the world. Their goal is to distance Madoff and his crimes as far as possible from the public perception of Jewishness, and to distance Jews, in general, as far as possible from the current global economic collapse. 

David Harris, the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, exhibited this type of concern last December 21 in a letter to the New York Times in which he chastised the Jewish-owned newspaper for publishing an article that made the following passing reference to Madoff’s Jewishness: 

He was thought of as a great philanthropist, a pillar of the community, the chairman of Nasdaq — all of that stuff,” said one hedge fund executive who knew him.

There was a joke around that Bernie was actually the Jewish T-bill,” the executive went on, referring to the ultrasecure investment of treasury bills. “He was that safe.”

Mr. Madoff had traveled far from his roots in eastern Queens, where as a young man he cobbled together a $5,000 grubstake from his earnings as a lifeguard and sprinkler installer to start the famed investment firm that eventually bore his name, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities.

He had come to move easily in the clubby Jewish world that iterates between New York City and its suburbs and southern satellites like Palm Beach.

Indeed, in the world of Jewish New York, where Mr. Madoff, 70, was raised and found success, he is largely still considered as a macher: a big-hearted big shot for whom philanthropy and family always intertwined with — and were equally as important as — finance.

Harris’ letter to the Times took them to task for “a striking emphasis on [Madoff’s] being Jewish. It was not just once, or twice, but at least three times before the article continued inside. Why?”   Harris and other Jewish public relations gurus would like to deny the relevance of Madoff’s Jewishness.  Some of their tactics have been

1. to suggest that Madoff’s victims were primarily Jews, hence transforming a story about a Jewish perpetrator into a story about Jewish victims;

2. to argue that Jews are not any more likely to do the sorts of things Madoff did than anyone else;

3. to equate any suggestion that there is an inherent Jewish tendency toward financial misconduct with “anti-Semitism.” 

However, anyone even remotely familiar with the recent history of Wall Street criminality would readily acknowledge the futility of tactics 1 and 2 above.  The names of Ivan Boesky, Dennis Levine, Michael Milken, Sandy Weill, Jack Grubman and Sam Israel should be sufficient to establish a history of corrupt behavior, while the more recent antics of Richard Fuld, Ace Greenberg, James Cayne, Roland Arnall, and Robert Rubin should be sufficient to establish a central Jewish presence in the current global economic collapse. The little-known career of Ameriquest sub-prime finagler extraordinaire and Wiesenthal Center co-founder Roland Arnall alone provides a solid basis for establishing Jewish complicity.  The level of complicity becomes even more apparent when one considers that Jews make up less than 3% of the general U.S. population.

If the facts will become known, it will be only tactic #3 above that will confront informed Gentiles — the charge of anti-Semitism.  It is high time that America and the world find the courage to openly discuss the facts of Jewish nepotism and hyper-ethnocentrism, as well as a tendency toward financial corruption and exploitation.  These issues must be addressed and resolved in a professional manner, if we can ever hope to restore some semblance of national and global economic viability.

Andrew Anderson is a retired businessman.  Email him.

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