The Forward’s Anthony Weiss digs deeper into the devastating blow that the American Jewish Congress suffered by investing with Bernie Madoff:
Officials at the 90-year-old American Jewish Congress disclosed that apparent fraud at Madoff’s investment firm had cost the organization roughly $21 million of the $24 million in endowments that supported the AJCongress and its programs. Those endowments funded roughly one-fourth of the organization’s budget which, in 2006, was $6.2 million. In the wake of the losses, the AJCongress already has commenced staff firings and the slashing of programs, but its leaders have vowed to press on. …
It appears that the source of Madoff’s connection to the AJCongress was Martin and Lillian Steinberg, who were long-standing supporters of the organization and old friends of, and investors with, Madoff.
“The Steinbergs and Madoffs go back a long time,” said Phil Baum, a former executive director of the AJCongress. “They were very close, intimate friends.”
As a result, Baum said, the AJCongress began to invest with Madoff decades ago, and Madoff became a trusted adviser to the organization on financial matters.
“He seemed prosperous, responsible, serious and sober,” Baum said. “There was no reason to suspect anything.”
Madoff remained connected to the organization over the years, and he attended a meeting of the AJCongress’s investment committee as recently as late November 2008, just weeks before the scandal broke.
According to the Forward, AJCongress acknowledged that staff and program cuts have been implemented, but declined to offer details.