Bernard Madoff Didn't Just Hurt Jews: He Was an Equal Opportunity Swindler

With thanks to my friend and fellow Jew, esteemed TV writer Allan Manings, who co-wrote the title for this piece, I was reading a front page article in the Los Angeles Times today, both intrigued and offended by writer Duke Helfand's unbalanced reporting to the effect that Bernard Madoff had done the unthinkable. He had cheated his own kind -- members of the Jewish Faith. Indeed the headline read, "Madoff an Outrage to L.A.'s Jewish." While it may be true that an enormous percentage of those individually affected were in fact Jewish, there were plenty of other decent people who lost big money as well.

And even if that weren't the case, isn't it racism or religious intolerance of the worst kind to presume that those from the same background ought to have a level of superior goodness towards one another? Or that it's somehow not as bad to wrong an outsider? Why should Jews be any more surprised that one of their own is less than honorable? Are we not subject to the same failings of other humans? Do we see articles written in a like manner when a Christian con man makes off with money from folks who share the same faith? Did the headlines during the Charles Keating scandal refer to his having pilfered the life savings of a lot of Christians? Or that the U.S. Senators involved in the wrongdoing were Christians as well?

Similarly, Gays have been known to screw one another (no pun intended), not only in the bar scene where young flirtatious types seek sugar daddies (or mamas) only to shed them when they no longer profit from the association. The entertainment industry is strewn with gay men in casting and production capacities, who have long been known to effect discriminatory practices on actors known to share the same sexual proclivity.

Whether these gay TV and Film honchos are still closeted and don't want suspicions about them revealed or are already "out" and don't want accusations of favoritism to be pointed in their direction, these are not noble characteristics. Nor should either of these two categories of gay production personnel be congratulated or excused for practicing the purported "strictly business sensibility" that an audience will not accept a gay actor playing a straight man -- a custom they are believed to engage in more often than even their heterosexual colleagues.

So, why is it a more onerous "desecration of God's name and the Jewish people who worship God," as Rabbi Elliot Dorff of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles said. Would it be less a sacrilege if Madoff had done the same to a strictly gentile clientele?

While it's incredibly sad and a lot of attention has been focused on the Jewish people who were ripped off, how about non-Jews like Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet of Access International Advisors, a financial manager so upset that he committed suicide in his Manhattan office. Or one of his gentile clients, Liliane Bettencourt, reportedly France's richest woman. Not to mention churchgoer Nicola Horlick, head of Britain's Bramdean Alternatives? Or the organizations and institutions, which have lost a combined $22 billion, such as:

- Fairfield Greenwich Advisors, $7.50 billion
- Tremont Capital Management, $3.30 billion
- Banco Santander, $2.87 billion
- Bank Medici, $2.10 billion
- Ascot Partners, $1.80 billion
- Access International Advisors, $1.40 billion
- Fortis, $1.35 billion
- Union Bancaire Privee, $1.00 billion
- HSBC, $1.00 billion

Plus large companies, which lost substantial amounts such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, Nomura Holdings, BNP Paribas or Aozora Bank. It's hard to believe that all these entities are owned by Jews nor that it would somehow be more disgusting were they so.

However, Rabbi Jonathan Klein of the Progressive Jewish alliance told the Los Angeles Times "Madoff does not represent the Jewish people, not even remotely." The rabbi presumably never heard of folks like Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel.

It's time to stop these generalizations and work towards bringing all citizens together, and not simply classify cultural groups in a manner that foments derision and possibly hatred. This is the same sort of crap instituted against all Muslims because of the horrible events seven years ago in New York and at the Pentagon and since. It is why Barack Obama, in spite of the shortcomings of the current administration, lost most of the southern states by big margins. It is why Jews are now being maligned even more worldwide as they are further branded with the Shylock moniker.

If someone perpetrates something bad, he or she should be held accountable and judged accordingly. It is neither better nor worse if he/she does it to those outside or inside his/her perceived community.

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas!

Michael Russnow's web site is

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