Fictitious Profits versus Earnings Lost

Jonathan S. Tobin recently joined Commentary magazine as Executive Editor. This is excerpted from his primere contribution:

The Madoff Scandal and the Future of American Jewry

The combined crises of 2008—the financial collapse and the Madoff scandal—will certainly exacerbate this dilemma and perhaps even sharpen the debate over the allocation of dollars. But the devastating losses created by Madoff pale when set beside the more pressing concern of demographic decline and the possibility that the decline in the number of people who are interested in Jewish causes will only accelerate over time unless something is done to arrest it.

The inability of the apparatus of Jewish philanthropy to find the will to focus its existing resources on the threat posed by rising levels of assimilation dwarfs the worries generated by financial scandals, even those as serious as that of Madoff.

The pain caused by Bernard Madoff will be lasting and felt by a great many people. There can be little doubt that the method by which he used his Jewish identity to worm his way into the confidence of many Jewish investors and charities will be among the most memorable aspects of his villainy. But those concerned about the future of American Jewry have far more pressing worries than the money Madoff stole and lost or the ammunition he might have given to anti-Semites. The real question is whether, at a time when resources are growing relatively scarce, the American Jewish community will finally take the full measure of the threat to its long-term survival and husband its straitened resources to address that threat openly, honestly, and effectively.