Chairman of Yeshiva University Business School Arrested in $50 Billion Ponzi Scheme

Gadi Pickholz emails:

Chairman of Yeshiva University Syms School of Business indicted in one of the largest ponzi schemes in history, as much as $50 BILLION — not million.

Sorry, something is fundamentally wrong. From an analytic and statistical approach, the sheer concentration of indictments of the modern orthodox leadership is an outlier way off the probability charts, and particularly concentrated at YU. There is no polite way to say this. Like the Mafiosos devout in their ceremonial and ritual adherence to Catholicism, there seems to be a complete disconnect between religious ritual and true practice.

And the source of that cancer is undoubtedly, the divorce between ritual and true practice of the recent leadership and new generation of Rabbis both graduating and controlling REITS and YU. They have transformed the profession into Big Business, and for considerable profit. Bernie Maduff is simply the latest in a long line of scandals — sexual, political, criminal, financial — that were likely inevitable consequences of that fundamental decision to alter the modern Rabbinate.

When Rabbi Menachem Genack, whom I revere and therefore employ as example, is the CEO of the OU’s kashrut division because it is a multi-million dollar revenue center, rather than a Rav HaMachshir, then Agriprocessors is an inevitabilty.

When Rabbi Kenneth Brander, whom I revile, chairs the Center for Jewish Future due to his fundraising capabilities, then Bernie Maduff scandals and NCSY sexual scandals are foregone time bombs simply waiting to explode.

When Rabbi Steven Riskin generates multi-million dollar revenues portraying women as victimized in the Bet Din system rather than conceding that the system as practiced is fundamentally flawed and equally dishonest and disreputable to husbands and wives, then families are destroyed and halacha is perverted for the sake of financing his million dollar home and campuses.

Bernie Maduff was as inevitable a consequence as Lander’s sexual conviction, and Tendler’s acknowledged sexual improprieties, of the YU Rabbinic culture of this generation. which has tragically metastized into a cancer likely beyond repair. 

Rav Yoshe Be’er Soloveitchik has been transformed into a marketing product for significant branding and profit by the Big Business Rabbinate generation.

JOE EMAILS: "It’s ridiculous to blame YU for Madoff. Nobody knew about his scam not even his sons who were running his business. Certainly not the many people who invested money with him. How is YU supposed to know that this famous investor with a great reputation is really a crook? Do you think that any non-profit is more savvy than professional investors? Not even the SEC or IRS caught him! I checked the YU alumnus directory and Madoff never went to any YU schools so
you can’t even say that YU gives a bad ethical education."



On Wall Street, his name is legendary. With money he had made as a lifeguard on the beaches of Long Island, he built a trading powerhouse that had prospered for more than four decades. At age 70, he had become an influential spokesman for the traders who are the hidden gears of the marketplace.

But on Thursday morning, this consummate trader, Bernard L. Madoff, was arrested at his Manhattan home by federal agents who accused him of running a multibillion-dollar fraud scheme — perhaps the largest in Wall Street’s history.

Regulators have not yet verified the scale of the fraud. But the criminal complaint filed against Mr. Madoff on Thursday in federal court in Manhattan reports that he estimated the losses at $50 billion. “We are alleging a massive fraud — both in terms of scope and duration,” said Linda Chatman Thomsen, director of the enforcement division at the Securities and Exchange Commission. “We are moving quickly and decisively to stop the fraud and protect remaining assets for investors.”

Andrew M. Calamari, an associate director for enforcement in the S.E.C.’s regional office in New York, said the case involved “a stunning fraud that appears to be of epic proportions.”

According to his lawyers, Mr. Madoff was released on a $10 million bond. “Bernie Madoff is a longstanding leader in the financial services industry,” said Daniel Horwitz, one of his lawyers. “He will fight to get through this unfortunate set of events.”

Mr. Madoff’s brother and business colleague, Peter Madoff, declined to comment on the case or discuss its implications for the Madoff firm, which at one point was the largest market maker on the electronic Nasdaq market, regularly operating as both a buyer and seller of a host of widely traded securities. The firm employed hundreds of traders.

There was some worry on Wall Street that Mr. Madoff’s fall would shake more foundations than his own.

According to the most recent federal filings, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, the firm he founded in 1960, operated more than two dozen funds overseeing $17 billion.

These funds have been widely marketed to wealthy investors, hedge funds and other institutional customers for more than a decade, although an S.E.C. filing in the case said the firm reported having 11 to 23 clients at the beginning of this year.


What it means to be kosher — the nub of a debate sparked in May by sweeping labor abuse charges against the Orthodox Jewish owners of the largest kosher meatpacking plant in the nation — was pondered Tuesday night in a panel discussion at Yeshiva University in Upper Manhattan, the academic nexus of Orthodox Judaism.

It was, for the most part, a subdued and scholarly discussion about ritual law, Jewish ethics and what to do if you suspect that the kosher meat on your table has been butchered and packed by 16-year-old Guatemalan girls forced to work 20-hour days under threat of deportation, as alleged in a recent case.

“Is it still possible to consider something ‘kosher certified’ if it is produced under unethical conditions?” asked Gilah Kletenik, one of the organizers of the student group that arranged the session, which drew an overflow crowd of 500, most of them students.

In keeping with the Talmudic tradition embodied by the rabbis on the panel, the answer seemed to be yes and no.

“The basic underpinning of Jewish tradition is ethics,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, a Yeshiva dean and the chief executive of kosher certification for the Orthodox Union, the group that oversees kosher standards in 8,000 food manufacturing plants around the world, including about 25 meatpacking facilities in the United States.

But he said the process of producing food that is certifiably kosher according to Jewish law is one thing; the conditions in which that process is undertaken are another. “The issues are not obvious sometimes,” he said.

In a more pointed comment, Rabbi Avi Shafran, who has defended the prerogative of the Orthodox rabbinate against what he sees as well-meaning but misguided efforts to add social-justice protections to the criteria for the production of kosher food, said, “Lapses of business ethics, animal rights issues, worker rights matters — all of these have no effect whatsoever on the kosher value.”

The realm of kashrut, or Jewish dietary law, which for 5,000 years has been the exclusive domain of orthodox authorities, has received new scrutiny from a broad spectrum of Jews since federal agents raided an Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, on May 12, arresting 389 illegal immigrants. The owners, Aaron Rubashkin and his son, Sholom, members of a prominent Orthodox family in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, were charged with bank fraud and employing under-age workers.

After the raid, workers’ organizations said that many Agriprocessors employees had long complained of frequent accidents and forced overtime but did not take their claims to the authorities because they feared deportation.

The workers’ stories gave a boost to a kosher-reform campaign known as Hekhsher Tzedek (in Hebrew, kosher righteousness), which was begun in 2006 by Rabbi Morris J. Allen, a Conservative rabbi from Mendota Heights, Minn., who has long promoted ethical reforms in kosher meat plants.

Rabbi Allen said on Wednesday that though he “would have loved” to have been invited to the discussion, “the important thing is that the topic of what constitutes good kosher food production has been elevated.”

“We are proud that people in all parts of the Jewish community are taking our agenda seriously,” he added.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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