In Madoff scandal, Jews feel an acute betrayal

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International Herald Tribune
In Madoff scandal, Jews feel an acute betrayal
By Robin Pogrebin
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

There is a teaching in the Talmud that says an individual who comes before God after death will be asked a series of questions, the first one of which is, “Were you honest in your business dealings?” But it is the Ten Commandments that have weighed most heavily on the mind of Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles in light of the sins for which Bernard Madoff stands accused.

“You shouldn’t steal,” Rabbi Wolpe said. “And this is theft on a global scale.”

The full scope of the misdeeds to which Madoff has confessed in swindling individuals and charitable groups has yet to be calculated, and he is far from being convicted. But Jews all over the country are already sending up something of a communal cry over a cost they say goes beyond the financial to the theological and the personal.

Here is a Jew accused of cheating Jewish organizations trying to help other Jews, they say, and of betraying the trust of Jews and violating the basic tenets of Jewish law. A Jew, they say, who seemed to exemplify the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes of the thieving Jewish banker.

So in synagogues and community centers, on blogs and in countless conversations, many Jews are beating their chests — not out of contrition, as they do on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, but because they say Madoff has brought shame on their people in addition to financial ruin and shaken the bonds of trust that bind Jewish communities.

“Jews have these familial ties,” Rabbi Wolpe said. “It’s not solely a shared belief; it’s a sense of close communal bonds, and in the same way that your family can embarrass you as no one else can, when a Jew does this, Jews feel ashamed by proxy. I’d like to believe someone raised in our community, imbued with Jewish values, would be better than this.”

Among the apparent victims of Madoff were many Jewish educational institutions and charitable causes that lost fortunes in his investments; they include Yeshiva University, Hadassah, the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America and the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. The Chais Family Foundation, which worked on educational projects in Israel, was recently forced to shut down because of losses in Madoff investments. Many of Madoff’s individual investors were Jewish and supported Jewish causes, apparently drawn to him precisely because of his own communal involvement and because he radiated the comfortable sense of being one of them.

“The Jewish world is not going to be the same for a while,” said Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky of Congregation Ansche Chesed in New York.

Jews are also grappling with the implications of Madoff’s deeds for their public image, what one rabbi referred to as the “shanda factor,” using the Yiddish term for an embarrassing shame or disgrace. As Bradley Burston, a columnist for haaretz.com, the English-language Web site of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote on Dec. 17: “The anti-Semite’s new Santa is Bernard Madoff. The answer to every Jew-hater’s wish list. The Aryan Nation at its most delusional couldn’t have come up with anything to rival this.”

The Anti-Defamation League said in a statement that Madoff’s arrest had prompted an outpouring of anti-Semitic comments on Web sites around the world, most repeating familiar tropes about Jews and money. Abraham Foxman, the group’s national director, said that canard went back hundreds of years, but he noted that anti-Semites did not need facts to be anti-Semitic.

“We’re not immune from having thieves and people who engage in fraud,” Foxman said in an interview, disputing any notion that Madoff should be seen as emblematic. “Why, because he happens to be Jewish, he should have a conscience?”

He added that Madoff’s victims extended well beyond the Jewish community.

In addition to theft, the Torah discusses another kind of stealing, geneivat da’at, the Hebrew term for deception or stealing someone’s mind. “In the rabbinic mind-set, he’s guilty of two sins: one is theft, and the other is deception,” said Burton Visotzky, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

“The fact that he stole from Jewish charities puts him in a special circle of hell,” Rabbi Visotzky added. “He really undermined the fabric of the Jewish community, because it’s built on trust. There is a wonderful rabbinic saying — often misapplied — that all Jews are sureties for one another, which means, for instance, that if a Jew takes a loan out, in some ways the whole Jewish community guarantees it.”

Several rabbis said they were reminded of Esau, a figure of mistrust in the Bible. According to a rabbinic interpretation, Esau, upon embracing his brother Jacob after 20 years apart, was actually frisking him to see what he could steal. “The saying goes that, when Esau kisses you,” Rabbi Visotzky said, “check to make sure your teeth are still there.”

Rabbi Kalmanofsky said he was struck by reports that Madoff had tried to give bonus payments to his employees just before he was arrested, that he was moved to do something right even as he was about to be charged with doing so much wrong. “The small-scale thought for people who work for him amidst this large-scale fraud — what is the dissonance between that sense of responsibility and the gross sense of irresponsibility?” he said.

In a recent sermon, Rabbi Kalmanofsky described Madoff as the antithesis of true piety.

“I said, what it means to be a religious person is to be terrified of the possibility that you’re going to harm someone else,” he said.

Rabbi Kalmanofsky said Judaism had highly developed mechanisms for not letting people control money without ample checks and balances. When tzedakah, or charity, is collected, it must be done so in pairs. “These things are supposed to be done in the public eye,” Rabbi Kalmanofsky said, “so there is a high degree of confidence that people are behaving in honorable ways.”

While the Madoff affair has resonated powerfully among Jews, some say it actually stands for a broader dysfunction in the business world. “The Bernie Madoff story has become a Jewish story,” said Rabbi Jennifer Krause, the author of “The Answer: Making Sense of Life, One Question at a Time,” “but I do see it in the much greater context of a human drama that is playing out in sensationally terrible ways in America right now.”

“The Talmud teaches that a person who only looks out for himself and his own interests will eventually be brought to poverty,” Rabbi Krause added. “Unfortunately, this is the metadrama of what’s happening in our country right now. When you have too many people who are only looking out for themselves and they forget the other piece, which is to look out for others, we’re brought to poverty.”

According to Jewish tradition, the last question people are asked when they meet God after dying is, “Did you hope for redemption?”

Rabbi Wolpe said he did not believe Madoff could ever make amends.

“It is not possible for him to atone for all the damage he did,” the rabbi said, “and I don’t even think that there is a punishment that is commensurate with the crime, for the wreckage of lives that he’s left behind. The only thing he could do, for the rest of his life, is work for redemption that he would never achieve.”

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Lifting the A320 – New York Plane Crash – US Airways Airbus

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New York plane crash Airbus lifted from Hudson River by salvage teams.

The sunken Airbus jet that crashed into New York’s Hudson River apparently after hitting a flock of birds has been lifted out of the water by salvage teams.

The operation to lift the US Airways plane was hampered by swirling river currents and icy waters, but finally was completed overnight.

Lifting straps from a huge crane were placed around the submerged plane, which was moored to a Manhattan dock soon after ditching in the Hudson on Thursday.

Because the fuselage was flooded the lifting was conducted slowly, allowing water to drain.

All 150 passengers and five crew escaped alive from the plane, which ditched when both engines halted, apparently after birds, possibly geese, were sucked into the turbines minutes into the flight from LaGuardia Airport.

Investigators need to get into the plane to recover the black box flight recorders, a crucial piece of evidence as to what went wrong.

Launched in 1988, the A320 is one of the best-selling jet airliner families of all time.

There are currently 3,200 of the medium-range planes in operation for a range of carriers including British Airways, easyJet and Air France.

Each A320 holds 150 passengers and costs around £40 million. The are constructed by Airbus, formerly a conglomerate of European aerospace manufacturers but now French owned, at its factories in Toulouse and Hamburg.

5-minute Guide to Gaza

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Get fast facts about the desperate situation facing children and their families in Gaza.

Caught in the conflict between Israel and Hamas are the families of Gaza. Here is a quick summary of the challenges faced by many Gazan children and their families.

Minute 1: Gaza’s History

  • The Gaza Strip is a sliver of towns, villages and farmland at the southeast end of the Mediterranean. It’s located between Israel to the north and east, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to the south.
  • Gaza city, the region’s capital, has been continuously inhabited for more than 3,000 years and was a crossroads of ancient civilizations.
  • The Israeli military occupied Gaza from 1967-2005.
  • Today, more than 40 per cent of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are refugees, many of whom live in crowded camps.
  • An 18-month blockade by Israel has driven most families in Gaza into dire poverty. Closed borders and restricted movement has hampered aid from reaching those in need.

Minute 2: Socio-economic Conditions

  • 49.1 per cent of Gazans are unemployed.
  • More than 50 per cent of families in Gaza live below the poverty line.
  • Most Gazans live on less than $2 a day

Minute 3: Food and Water

  • Socio-economic conditions in Gaza, which is subject to severe restrictions, have deteriorated sharply, causing nearly 80 per cent of Gaza’s residents to rely on food aid.
  • 46 per cent of all Palestinians are either food insecure or in danger of becoming so.
  • In Beit Lahya, North Gaza, most households have access to water, but the quality is so poor that 95 per cent have to buy drinking water.

Minute 4: Gaza’s Children

  • More than half of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are children.
  • 50,000 children in Gaza are malnourished. About half of children under two are anemic and 70 per cent have vitamin A deficiency. Current malnutrition rates rival levels seen in drought-stricken regions of Africa
  • Nearly half of all students in the Palestinian territories have seen their school besieged by troops, and more than 10 per cent have witnessed the killing of a teacher in school.

Minute 5: World Vision’s Work in Gaza

  • There are two World Vision communities in Gaza.
  • World Vision supports 23,893 children in the West Bank and Gaza, including 6,000 children sponsored by Canadians.

by World Vision Canada
Please donate now to World Vision’s relief efforts in conflict ridden regions.

Haraam E-Numbers List

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Haram E-Numbers List

The following is a list of products containing animal by-products, such as animal fat, gelatine and fatty acids (fats). It is by no means certain that they are Haraam. Only Allah (SWT) knows, and may we be guided by Him. It is better to avoid products these e-numbers, as there is doubt about them.

E No. Description Notes

COLOURS

  • E120 Cochineal (red colour) from scale insects
  • E140 Chlorophyll fatty acids & others
  • E141 Copper phaeophytins from chlorophyll

PRESERVATIVE

E252 Potassium Nitrate waste animal & vegetable material

EMULSIFIERS

  • E422 Glycerol (Glycerine) from soaps & fatty acids
  • 430 Polyoxyethelene stearate fatty acid molecules
  • 431 Polyoxyethelene stearate fatty acids
  • 433 Polysorbate 80 oleic esters of sorbitol
  • E470 Sodium salts of soap fatty acids
  • E471 Glyceryl Monostearate from glycerin & fatty acid
  • E472a Acetic esters of fatty acids esters of glycerol & acetic acid
  • E472b Lactic esters of fatty acids esters of glycerol & lactic acid
  • E472c Citric esters of fatty acids esters of glycerol & citric acid
  • E472d Tartaric esters of fatty acids esters of glycerol & tartaric acid
  • E472e Acetyltartaric esters of fatty acids esters of glycerol & tartaric acid
  • E473 Sucrose esters esters of glycerol & sucrose
  • E474 Sucroglycerides from lard
  • E475 Polyglycerol esters of fatty acids
  • 476 Polyglycerol polyricinoleate castor oil & glycerol esters
  • E477 Propylene glycol esters propylene glycol
  • 478 Lactylated glycerol esters glycerol esters & lactic acid
  • 491 Sorbitan monostearate stearic acid and sorbitol
  • 492 Sorbitan Tristearate stearic acid
  • E494 Sorbitan mono-oleate from oleic acid
  • 542 Edible bone phosphate steam-extract from animal bones

ANTI-CAKING AGENTS

  • 570 Stearic acid fatty acid in animal fats & veg oils
  • 572 Magnesium stearate stearic acid

FLAVOURINGS

  • 631 Sodium 5_inosinate meat extract & dried sardines
  • 635 Sodium 5_ribonucleotide meat extract & dried sardines
  • 904 Shellac resin by lac insect

Additives or ingredients, which have not been allocated EEC numbers and may be derived from non-halal sources, are :

  • Edible / Animal fat or oil
  • Gelatin / gelatine
  • Enzymes of catalase, lipase, pepsin, trypsin, rennin (or rennet)
  • Please note that the E471 is also known as mono & di-glyceride of fatty acids (some manufacturers do not put the E-number but
  • put the wording instead). This can be of vegetable or animal origin. There are two ways of finding out : either the wrapper says
  • “suitable for vegetarians” or you have to ask the manufacturer.