Religion & Beliefs

Fallen Banker Takes Jewish Charities With Him

As the finance world reeled during the past week from the revelation that investment banker Bernard Madoff had been running a complex Ponzi scheme that defrauded his investors, a ripple effect was felt in the Jewish community. Madoff had funded or endowed … Read More

By / December 14, 2008

As the finance world reeled during the past week from the revelation that investment banker Bernard Madoff had been running a complex Ponzi scheme that defrauded his investors, a ripple effect was felt in the Jewish community. Madoff had funded or endowed many Jewish organizations, some of whom counted him as their sole or most generous donor. This weekend, the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, whose motto was "help keep our children Jewish" and funded programs like day camps and Hebrew schools for children who otherwise might not have a Jewish upbringing, posted the following message on their website:

The programs of the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation and the Robert I. Lappin 1992 Supporting Foundation are discontinued, effectively immediately. This includes Youth to Israel and Teachers to Israel.

The money used to fund the programs of both Foundations was invested with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities and all the assets have been frozen by the federal courts. Mr. Madoff was arrested Thursday morning by the FBI and charged with criminal securities fraud by federal prosecutors. The money needed to fund the programs of the Lappin Foundations is gone.

The Foundation staff has been terminated today.

“It is with a heavy heart that I make this announcement,” said Robert I. Lappin, Foundation trustee. “The Foundations’ programs have touched thousands of lives over many years in our efforts to help keep our children Jewish.”

While the Lappin Foundation appears to have been the hardest hit, it may not be the only casualty in the Jewish philanthropic world. According to Bloomberg, one of the investors who lost a significant amount of money in Madoff’s scheme was Carl Shapiro. Shapiro and his wife Ruth are allegedly out $145 million thanks to Madoff, and this could have adverse effects on The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, which supports Jewish hospitals, arts programs, education, and more in the Boston and Palm Beach areas.

Within the next week, more organizations may feel the repercussions of Madoff’s wrongdoings.

Update: December 15

According to JTA, several other charities and organizations are now being brought into the Madoff scandal: 

The Chais Family Foundation, which gives out some $12.5 million each year to Jewish causes in Israel, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, announced Dec. 14 that it had closed after losing all of its money through investments with Madoff.

At least one nonprofit is calling out for help in the wake of Madoff’s collapse: The Gift of Life Foundation, a Jewish bone marrow registry that relied heavily on Madoff as a benefactor, announced on its Web site Sunday that it would immediately need to raise $1.8 million to make up for recent losses.

Sources close to Yeshiva University, where Madoff served as treasurer of the board of trustees and chairman of the board of Y.U.’s Sy Syms School of Business until he resigned last week, said that the school has lost at least $100 million. But Y.U. officials declined to offer any specifics.

For a great chart of every group or individual who has a proven link to Madoff, check out the hedge fund website finalternatives.com. The ever-growing list includes everyone from the Wunderkinder Foundation (Steven Spielberg’s charity) to the town of Fairfield, Connecticut’s pension fund.