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December 18th, 2008
05:47 PM ET

Madoff exploited the Jews

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/CRIME/12/18/trump.madoff.qanda/art.madoff.jpg caption="Bernard Madoff strolls down New York's Lexington Avenue after news of the scandal breaks."]
Ronald A. Cass
The Wall Street Journal

Steven Spielberg. Elie Wiesel. Mort Zuckerman. Frank Lautenberg. Yeshiva University. As I read the list of people and enterprises reportedly bilked to the tune of $50 billion by Bernard Madoff, I recalled a childhood in which my father received bad news by asking first, "Was it a Jew?" My father coupled sensitivity to anti-Semitism with special sympathy for other Jews. In contrast, Mr. Madoff, it seems, targeted other Jews, drawing them in at least in some measure because of a shared faith.

The Madoff tale is striking in part because it is like stealing from family. Yet frauds that prey on people who share bonds of religion or ethnicity, who travel in the same circles, are quite common. Two years ago the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a warning about "affinity fraud." The SEC ticked off a series of examples of schemes that were directed at members of a community: Armenian-Americans, Baptist Church members, Jehovah's Witnesses, African-American church groups, Korean-Americans. In each case, the perpetrator relied on the fact that being from the same community provided a reason to trust the sales pitch, to believe it was plausible that someone from the same background would give you a deal that, if offered by someone without such ties, would sound too good to be true.

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Filed under: Raw Politics
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Tammy, Berwick. LA

    Apparently you've never paid much attention to organized crime and what they can do to their own. While I can appreciate the wealthy losing, it saddens me a whole lot more when an elderly person is scammed and loses everything he or she has worked their whole lives for. I would guess those you've listed were smart enough not to put all the proverbial eggs in one basket with this scum bag.

    December 18, 2008 at 7:10 pm |
  2. Teresa

    While this whole scheme is sad for investors, Madoff is nothing short of a genius to have pulled this off alone. Or did he?

    It's odd that we even think along these lines: Madoff ripped off jewish folks more than OTHER folks... Would it have been any less
    criminal?

    December 18, 2008 at 6:34 pm |
  3. Joanne, Solvay, NY

    I don't think Mr. Madoff distinguished to whom he planned to rob. He is an equal opportunity thief!

    December 18, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  4. The Dexter

    Absolutely. The greatest deceit and crime can occur from within.

    December 18, 2008 at 5:53 pm |