Behind the Headlines Another Jewish Bank in Trouble

Reports over the weekend and into this week of the “liquidity problems” of Swiss Jewish financier Tibor Rosenbaum’s financial empire flooded the Israeli press and gave further cause for concern among business and finance circles here, and among Orthodox circles, both of which have been hit hard recently by the financial collapse of Jewish millionaires abroad.

While the extent of Rosenbaum’s problems were not immediately apparent, moves were reportedly proceeding in Frankfurt in the hope of selling his “International Credit Bank of Geneva” and thereby perhaps saving his vast business and financial empire. Economic commentators here noted that no matter what the eventual fate of the bank, there was good reason to hope that Rosenbaum’s interests in Israel would not be affected by his crisis. These interests include large shares in two major textile concerns as well as real estate and other ventures.

Rosenheim is the third prominent Orthodox Jewish millionaire in Europe to fall upon hard times this year. The earlier two were William Stern, his brother-in-law from London who is a real estate magnate, and Harry Landy, also from London whose Israel-British Bank crashed first in Tel Aviv then in London and brought down others of his family’s ventures with it.

CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE

All three were intimately connected with Israel’s economy: Stern had last year bought up “Pan-Lon,” Israel’s largest private building company. He was forced to sell it when his empire in England crumbled. He is reputed to have other, smaller interests, too, in Israel. Landy head of the well-established Williams family, owned, apart from the bank, the “Eliaz” wineries here and several real estate and other concerns.

Israel’s taxpayers were not, of course, affected by Stern’s troubles. in fact “Pan-Lon” had been doing well, but he had had to sell to raise capital in London. The extent of the government’s losses in the Israel-British Bank is not yet fully known, and its former managing director, Landy’s brother-in-law, Yehoshua Bension, is still awaiting trial.

But over and above dollars and cents, Israel has suffered severely in these instances. Both banks were known to be closely connected to Israel. Landy and Rosenbaum were on warm terms with the leaders of Israel’s economy, and the upshot must inevitably be a weakening of general confidence in Israel and Israeli-connected banking institutions.

ORTHODOX SECTOR HARD HIT

The Orthodox sector here will particularly suffer from these three otherwise unconnected setbacks. All three millionaires have been philanthropists, mainly to Orthodox causes, and mainly in Israel on a very large scale, and many an Orthodox institution is going to feel the pinch now.

The National Religious Party has been especially unfortunate. Landy and Rosenbaum are two of its most prominent leaders. in fact Rosenbaum is one of its three-man international presidium. Furthermore, they both were closely involved in fostering the party’s own commercial and banking ventures.

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