Members of exclusive N.Y. synagogue lose collective $2 billion in Madoff scam
New York Post: Fifth Avenue Synagogue president served as powerful recruiter for Bernard Madoff.
Hanukkah, which began Sunday, will not bring light and joy to the famous Modern Orthodox synagogue, situated in an upscale Manhattan neighborhood, known to many within the Jewish community as the "Fifth Avenue Synagogue."
The revelation that has dampened the joy of the holiday for the Fifth Avenue worshippers is the discovery that the Madoff scam - the $50 billion "Ponzi scheme" that may rank among the biggest fraud cases ever - cost the members of the synagogue a collective $2 billion, the New York Post reported Sunday.
The fraud has crippled the synagogue, which boasts some of New York's elite as members.
Bernard Madoff, who has been arrested on suspicion of having incurred the loss of $50 billion to charities, financial institutions and private investors, is not a member of the synagogue and did not attend it. However, several long-time Fifth Avenue Synagogue worshippers are among the list of the scam's biggest victims.
According to the New York Post, the synagogue was a breeding ground for Madoff investors given that its president, J. Ezra Merkin, reportedly served as a powerful recruiter for the alleged scamster.
At least 10 of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue members lost millions to the scam. The report names Ira Rennert, the chairman of the synagogue board, who reportedly invested $200 million with Madoff's company. Author and Nobel Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel was also listed as a long-time Fifth Avenue Synagogue member whose foundation lost $37 million.
Another synagogue member hurt by the scheme was investment banker Michael Jesselson, whose Orthodox Jewish school in The Bronx took a $1.3 million hit.
The Fifth Avenue Synagogue was founded some 50 years ago, and its official name is Ateret Zvi. Some 300 families belong to the synagogue.