An Unprecedented Loss

Here are just a few highlights from the lead story in Tuesday morning’s Jerusalem Post:

Jewish community braces for calamity in wake of Madoff fraud

  • Reports are surfacing that Yeshiva University has lost far more than a reported estimate of $100m. from its endowment fund, though the university declined to respond to an explicit query about the rumor.
  • The American Jewish Congress also declined to respond to a query about reports that a majority of its endowment has been lost, a loss that would threaten the organization’s survival.

“This is a tidal wave, a tsunami,” said a veteran advisor to Jewish nonprofits, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “You can live with a downturn in the economy, because there will be an upturn. But now we’re talking about foundations that have been wiped out completely, money that’s not recoverable.”

Though observers agree it is still too early to ascertain the full extent of the damage, some estimates expect a 20 percent reduction in funding for US Jewish federations. The cutbacks are expected to hit educational and Israel programs first as the federations work to keep their local charity efforts going.

“People who are starving are going to have to continue to be fed,” Avraham Infeld, president of the collapsed Chais Family Foundation, told the Post on Monday. “That means every other kind of Jewish expenditure is going to have to move aside in order to allow welfare to take place for the aged and the poor.”

According to Infeld, “this is probably the hardest financial hit ever for the Jewish community. There will be major mergers, cutbacks, and once-and-for-all removal of duplications in the organizations. Why do I need both the Jewish Agency and the Joint [Distribution Committee] today?”