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Madoff loss hits art aid for young in Israel

The Israeli cultural arts scene in Israel is suffering as a consequence of the Bernie Madoff affair, The New York Times reports:

Small and little known outside Israel, the America-Israel Cultural Foundation has enormous influence there and in classical music worldwide. Receiving one of its scholarships for lessons, conservatory tuition or study abroad is an essential stamp of approval for Israeli musicians, and the foundation counts renowned musicians like Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Gil Shaham and Yefim Bronfman as recipients when they were students. But this year, disaster looms. The foundation’s endowment of about $14 million was in the hands of Bernard L. Madoff and evaporated in his Ponzi scheme. Like other victims of the fraud the foundation received statements showing false earnings tied to the stock market, said David Homan, the foundation’s New York-based executive director.

The foundation supports dance and the visual arts as well as music, and it expects to give around 350 scholarships next year, down from about 800. The usual dozen or so new foreign scholarships will not be offered. That means fewer Israelis at the Juilliard School and other major international conservatories. The foundation runs a major music competition, which is also threatened.

All told, the foundation, established in 1939 by New York Jews who wanted to foster culture in the land that would become the state of Israel, used to give out about $2 million a year. The scholarship program is unabashedly aimed at casting Israel in a positive light. “A.I.C.F. works to create a broader understanding of Israel by facilitating opportunities to directly experience Israel’s culture,” its newsletter reads.

The foundation was one of many Jewish organizations hit hard by the Madoff scandal. The financial debacle has raised the prospect that it could shut down.

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