To the Investors of Bernie Madoff - Shame on you!!

I don’t want to sound callous. The Madoff crime is a national catastrophe for the Jewish People. Too many of our beautiful brothers and sisters have lost everything. Many have unfortunately seen most of their wealth erased.

As someone who has fallen into the pit many times, I feel for the people who have lost their money. I hope your situation improves as quickly and harmlessly as possible.

But don’t tell me you are innocent victims. In most cases, if not all, you are as culpable as Mr. Madoff in the commission of these crimes!

How did nobody know about what Bernie Madoff was doing? How could Jewish leaders and major organizations invest hundreds of millions of dollars with this man and not perform some basic due diligence? How could investors make consistent double digit returns on their money without even questioning how it was possible? Even Warren Buffett had losing quarters.

With so much at stake, why didn’t anybody from Steven Spielberg, to Senator Frank Lautenberg, to the Board of Directors at Carl Shapiro’s Charity at least try to find out what was going on?

Because they all knew.

They didn’t know exactly what Mr. Madoff was doing, but they knew he was doing something illegal. Over the years, when Madoff’s investors were asked how they thought he was making his money, their answer was uniform: he was bending the rules. Some thought that Madoff had inside information about the flow of trades within certain stocks at certain times. Some thought he actually did have a Ponzi scheme going.

Nobody cared as long as they were making money. Nobody questioned the legality or the morality of his schemes as long as they were in on it.

How could any Jewish organization stand for such an injustice? Where in the Torah does it permit a Jew to participate in anything unethical? Jewish business ethics are very clear in this matter: a righteous cause does not give you license to fund it in a semi-righteous manner. When it comes to money, the ends do not justify the means. It’s the opposite. The ends are defined by the means! The first moment any Jewish organization found out that Madoff was doing anything remotely illegal – they were morally obligated to take their money out!

But they didn’t. Everybody decided to turn the other cheek. Everybody agreed that it was better to allow Madoff to do whatever it was he did, and grow their organization at the expense of the very faith that was the force behind it.

We are the Jewish People. It is not our job to amass money by any means necessary. It is not our job to look the other way. As a light unto the nations, it is our primary obligation to the world to put morality, Torah, and what is right BEFORE any financial or material consideration. As Jews, we know that all sustenance comes from Hashem, and it is up to Him to provide for our needs, and not us. Our job is to follow His law and represent Him to the best of our abilities.
We forgot to do this, so Rosh Hashanah came a little late this year. We created Madoff. We invested large sums of money with him. We kept him going by giving him more money instead of looking over his shoulder after his 20th straight quarter of perfect returns. We enabled him by looking the other way – even when some of us knew he was doing wrong.

Now, hundreds of Jews who are so cut off from their people will not have the chance to experience Israel for the first time.

Scores of organizations who provided so much for the advancement of Am Yisrael and mankind will have to shut down.

Countless lives are ruined.

We are as guilty as he is.