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AJCongress suffers significant loss but won’t close

The American Jewish Congress was severely hurt by the Bernard Madoff scandal but will not close, the organization announced.

The future of the Jewish advocacy group had been the source of speculation in Jewish communal circles since word leaked that it was among the organizations that had invested a large portion of its endowment with Madoff.

The AJCongress, which was founded in 1918 to fight anti-Semitism and protect civil rights, sent out a news release Tuesday saying that a trust left to the organization by Lillian and Martin Steinberg had been lost.

“For many years prior to their deaths, the Steinbergs entrusted their savings to Bernard Madoff. Sadly, Mr. Madoff did not return the trust they placed in him. It is our belief that all of the money that the Steinbergs left to the American Jewish Congress that was invested with Mr. Madoff has been lost,” the release said. “In addition, part of a second endowment fund was also invested with Mr. Madoff.  We believe those funds to have been lost as well. Our losses appear to be limited to those two areas. Additional endowment funds and operating accounts were not managed by Mr. Madoff and are not impacted.”

According to the organization’s 990 tax filing from 2006, the most recent that is publicly available, the AJCongress had $17 million in assets. The money the Steinbergs left makes up a significant portion of that amount, according to the organization’s acting executive director and longtime legal expert, Marc Stern.

Stern said it was unclear exactly how much of the total assets the Steinberg trust accounted for.

“Its exact magnitude remains to be seen and we are going to carry on as we can,” he told JTA.

The organization relies heavily on its endowment. AJCongress takes in approximately $4 million per year in membership dues and donations, and about $1.5 million from its investments and interest, according to the 2006 tax filing.

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