Before December 11, 2008, few Americans had ever heard of Bernard L. Madoff. Yet after his arrest for running what authorities allege was the largest Ponzi scheme in history, Madoff not only achieved the sort of notoriety that is reserved for arch-criminals; he also became, in an instant, one of the most famous Jews in the world.
Madoff had been managing billions of dollars for investors who thought they were beating the market with the steady gains he reported. The profits were illusory. There was only a decades-long scam in which the “returns” of early clients were paid by the contributions of those who came later.
In the days following the revelation of the alleged $50 billion scam, the willingness of the press to refer to Madoff’s Jewishness set off alarms in a community uniquely sensitive about the way in which its members have historically been singled out for opprobrium. The theme of Jewish financial skullduggery is, after all, a familiar one in the canon of anti-Semitic invective. Madoff’s religion and his nefarious business practices were quickly intertwined by many hate-inspired Internet posters, which in turn aroused concerns at the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee that the Madoff moment might mark the beginning of a new and uniquely dangerous wave of anti-Semitism.
Click here to read the rest of this article from the February issue of COMMENTARY.