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May 27, 2015 / 9 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Abraham Foxman’

Farrakhan Says Kanye West Need not Apologize in Jewish Flap

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan told rapper Kanye West not to apologize or bow to pressure over remarks that were called “classic anti-Semitism” by the Anti-Defamation League.

“You are telling Kanye West he should know better,” Farrakhan said on Saturday during a weekly address for the Nation of Islam, directing his words at ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. “He does know better, and that’s why he said what he said.”

West, defending President Obama’s difficulty in passing his policies, said in an interview late last month on the New York City radio station WWPR-FM, “Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people.”

Foxman called the statement “classic anti-Semitism, adding: “There it goes again, the age-old canard that Jews are all-powerful and control the levers of power in government. As a celebrity with a wide following, Kanye West should know better. We hope that he will take responsibility for his words, understand why they are so offensive, and apologize to those he has offended.”

Farrakhan, taking further about Foxman, said, “I wish you and I could have a dialogue. You wouldn’t pull that small-time stuff on me.”

Foxman: US Seen as ‘Weak and Retreating’ on World Stage

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

American wariness of foreign military involvement is making it seem “weak and retreating,” warned the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman.

“Make no mistake about it. If what we are seeing now is the beginning of a deep change in American foreign policy, it will be bad for the Jews,” said Foxman, the ADL’s national director, at a conference Thursday marking the group’s 100th anniversary in New York.

“The combination of America’s unsatisfactory involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, together with the financial crisis at home, have generated a broader opposition to American military involvement overseas,” he said.

Citing among other things the recent congressional resistance to authorizing a strike on Syria, Foxman said: “America is being seen as weak and retreating.”

“The world looks at our choices, looks at our public opinion polls, looks at congressional reactions, looks at the paralysis in Washington on budgeting matters and wonders,” he said.

The perception of weakness could harm U.S. efforts to get Iran to end its nuclear push, Foxman warned.

“I hope that we get our act together,” he said. “I hope Congress starts to think of the bigger picture. I hope we are truly able to keep all options on the table, whether vis-à-vis Iran or Syria, without rushing to military action.”


Muslim Group Appoints Jew as Philadelphia Director

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

The Council on American-Islamic Relations hired a Jewish filmmaker and interfaith activist as executive director of the group’s Philadelphia office.

Jacob Bender is the highest ranking non-Muslim in the Washington-based organization, and the first to lead one of its chapters, Religion News Service reported Thursday.

“Many Muslims face daily suspicion, not unlike other immigrant groups throughout history,” said Bender. “When one group of Americans is attacked, it lessens the quality of democracy for all of us.

“As part of a community that has historically faced persecution in Europe and the United States as well, I hope that I would bring a certain amount of sensitivity,” he told RNS.

Iftekhar Hussein, chairman of CAIR-Philadelphia’s board of directors, told the Jewish Daily Forward that Bender brought a minority’s sensibility to the job.

“The needs of the Muslim community are really the needs of any minority community in the United States,” he said. “Jacob, being Jewish, understands that from his own background.”

At CAIR, Bender said his work would focus on fighting civil rights violations, discrimination, and hate speech, and promoting relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.

But several Jewish Americans greeted the move with caution, citing positions adopted by ICAR which they found unacceptable.

“The fact that he is Jewish does not indicate, necessarily, a change of attitude and activity at CAIR,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in a statement. “Unfortunately, there are Jews who are anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. But we will wait and see.”

In a 2006 report, the ADL accused CAIR of associating with people who have supported terrorism, and of having extremist views on Israel.

Bender, who started Oct. 1 but whose appointment was announced on Oct. 15, the day Muslims celebrated Eid al-Adha, dismissed charges of extremism.

“Those attacks on CAIR are totally unfounded,” said Bender. “Many people equate extremism with any criticism of Israel.”

Only the ADL Could Turn the ‘Redskins’ Name into a Jewish Issue

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

President Barack Obama finally has given Americans a fun issue to debate so they can take their minds off Iranian nukes, Syrian chemical weapons and the zillion dollar debt, but the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is playing party pooper by turning it into a Jewish issue.

If the Washington Redskins’ football club owner Dan Snyder were not Jewish, would the name “Redskins” make such a difference to the ADL?

Other teams have also come under fire, including the Cleveland Indians, whose hook-nosed, red-faced mascot Chief Wahoo has been called racist and offensive, the JTA reported. The Atlanta Braves baseball team also is in the same club of offending an ethnic group.

“Tradition matters, but tradition should not justify the perpetuation of such names and mascots,” said ADL national director Abraham Foxman. “A name change will not impact how a team fares on the field, or in the standings.”

Snyder is sticking to his guns, or bow and arrow, and the Washington Post reported that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, “It would be a real mistake – a real mistake – to think that Dan, who is Jewish, has a lack of sensitivity regarding somebody’s feelings. I promise you that.”

President Obama has turned the issue into a national debate, not the most burning issue for the great American empire but at least one that is a bit lighter than all of the burdens Americans carry because of an increasingly deaf and dumb government.

“I’ve got to say that if I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team, even if it had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it,” President Barack Obama said.

Not to many years ago, any ethnic group would have been proud to have a baseball or football team named after them. The “Baltimore Jews” or the “Brooklyn Blacks” would not have been offensive. It would have been badge of honor.

Even today, Walt “Red Hawk” Brown, the chief of Virginia’s Cheroenhaka Nottoway Tribe that was recognized by the Virginia General Assembly in 2010 but is not federally recognized , told a Richmond, Virginia television station that it’s “a great honor” when Native American words are used in popular culture.

“Why would my president says [Redskins is] is offensive to him?” Brown asked. “What’s offensive to me is this: we have 11 state recognized tribes, and he hasn’t done one thing to get those tribes federally recognized.”

But his voice is drowned out by the Melting Pot culture that not too many decades ago decided that Negro was too close to “nigger” and had to be replaced with “black,” which was not ethnic enough and had to be replaced with “Afro-Americans.”

But a Jew still is a Jew.

Or as Tom Lehrer once sang, “During National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week, “It’s fun to eulogize/The people you despise… Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics/And the Catholics hate the Protestants/And the Hindus hate the Muslims/And everybody hates the Jews.”

Consider the recent poll that shows more and more Jews, especially those who might not be Jews according to Jewish law but like to consider themselves as Jewish, regard their religion as a culture. That way, maybe the Jews won’t be hated, except by God for rejecting the concept of The Chosen People, which is obvious racism to the politically correct.

A “stomach Jew” used to be one who did not observe much of the Torah but ate gefilte fish. Today a  “stomach Jew” is one who can eat shrimp while wearing an “I Love Israel” shirt.

If  the “Redskins” is so suggestive of racism, Obama and Foxman have the wrong reasons for being so sensitive. And where is  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when we need him to remind everyone of American history?

Doesn’t anyone remember that the  tiny U.S. government occupied the West Bank of the United States and put the Indians in refugee camps, called “reserves?”

There was no need for an Apartheid back then because the good Christian whites simply gunned down the Indians by the hundreds and by the thousands as part of the peace process.

Does pressing Snyder to bury the name “Redskins” cleanse the past and sterilize the present?

ADL: Russian Gays Treatment like Soviet Jews Treatment

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

The Anti-Defamation League called for a new version of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to pressure Russia to improve its treatment of gays.

Jackson-Vanik was a provision of the 1974 Trade Act that denied favored status to nations that restricted emigration. The amendment was used to pressure the Soviet Union to loosen its restrictive emigration policies.

“It is obvious that Russia is oppressing the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in a manner similar to the ways in which the Soviet Union once oppressed the Jewish community,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman wrote Friday in an article in the Huffington Post. “We need a new Jackson-Vanik to convince Russia that steps backward on this issue of basic human rights will be met with strong repercussions from the United States.”

In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed new anti-gay legislation that prohibits “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations amongst minors,” including any gay-rights literature; banned gay-rights advocacy in general; and prohibited gay pride events in Moscow for the next 100 years.

Protests against the new law have met with violent retribution in recent months.

ADL to Israel Broadcasting Authority: Let them wear Galliano!

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

ADL’s Abe Foxman said he’s “outraged” at last week’s decision by the Israel Broadcasting Authority to bar Israel’s contestant in the international Eurovision music contest from wearing a dress by designer John Galliano.

Galliano lost his job as the top designer at Christian Dior two years ago after being arrested for making anti-Semitic statements at a Paris bar, but Foxman said he is now a “changed man.”

“I am outraged and embarrassed that an entity representing Israel would reject Mr. Galliano,” Foxman said. “To reject someone who has now embraced Israel and the Jewish people is outrageous. This is not the lesson that you give your children. Rejecting someone who gave a sincere apology is not Jewish tradition. We are a people that forgive and this is not the way to overcome bigotry.

“Mr. Galliano is a changed man.”

The Media’s Madoff Moment

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

On the evening of December 11, 1995, businessman Aaron Feuerstein was with family and friends at a restaurant in Boston. It was his seventieth birthday, and a group of well-wishers had gathered to throw him a surprise party.

In the midst of the festivities, someone walked in with horrifying news. “It’s the factory. A boiler exploded. People are hurt, and the buildings are on fire.”

No one had to ask, “What factory?” Everyone understood the man was referring to Malden Mills, the textile plant Aaron Feuerstein’s grandfather had built in 1906 and that Aaron himself had managed for almost thirty years.

Within the hour, Feuerstein and his friends were part of a large crowd of onlookers, watching firefighters battle the blaze. It had grown into a six-alarm conflagration, drawing 200 firefighters.

The 1995 fire at Malden Mills wasn’t just bad news for Feuerstein’s company – it was a potentially devastating blow to an already depressed post-industrial community.

Malden Mills employed 2,400 people, many of them recent immigrants from countries ranging from Italy, Portugal, and Israel to the Dominican Republic. Thousands of people relied on the textile business for their survival. Now, many of them had rushed to the scene and were watching their dreams of the future literally going up in smoke.

When the flames finally subsided, three of the four factory buildings had been destroyed. Thirty-three employees had been injured, though thankfully none had died. The damage was estimated at some $500 million. Families throughout northeastern Massachusetts were in despair, wondering where their next paycheck was coming from.

Many people in Aaron Feuerstein’s position would have broken down under the shock. But Feuerstein refused to shed a tear. He bolstered his spirits by recalling a favorite passage from Shakespeare’s King Lear, in which the distraught monarch vows not to weep although his heart should “break into a hundred thousand flaws.”Feuerstein was marshalling his strength for the biggest challenge of his business career – figuring out a way to save Malden Mills and the families who depended upon it.

His response to the fire began two days later, when paychecks were due to his workers. No one would have been shocked if the checks had been late. But Feuerstein ordered not only that every check be delivered in full and on time, but that a planned Christmas bonus of $275 be included in each envelope. (He also added a note for each worker: “Do not despair. God bless each of you.”)

Then, on the evening of December 14, Feuerstein rose to address over a thousand Malden Mills employees who had gathered in the gym of Central Catholic High School to learn what their future would be.

“I will get right to my announcement,” he said. “For the next 30 days – and it might be more – all our employees will be paid their full salaries. But over and above the money, the most important thing Malden Mills can do for our workers is to get you back to work. By January 2, we will restart operations, and within ninety days we will be fully operational.”

The news stunned the crowd. After a moment of shocked silence, they broke into cheers.

Later that same night, Feuerstein made the rounds of Lawrence’s leading charitable organizations, delivering donations as he did every holiday season. In all, he disbursed $80,000 in gifts to groups like the Salvation Army and the local soup kitchen.

Feuerstein kept his word to the workers. He ended up paying full wages to his idled employees for up to four months while the plant was rebuilt and new machinery was purchased and installed. The total cost of those salaries was around $25 million. In addition to the $300 million insurance settlement, Malden Mills invested another $100 million in rebuilding the plant, creating a state-of-the-art textile factory that was the first to be built in New England in more than a century.

By February, more than 70 percent of the workers were back at their jobs.

It would be wonderful to close the story of Aaron Feuerstein and his remarkable company right here. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always provide a fairy-tale ending.

The enormous debt Feuerstein assumed in order to finance the rebuilding of the Lawrence factory eventually caught up with the company. After a business slump in 2001, Malden Mills was forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company went through several reorganizations during the next eight years, eventually emerging under a new name (Polartec, LLC) and a modernized business model. Feuerstein – by now in his late seventies – lost control of the business in 2004 and was forced to step down by the creditors who held majority shares.

In the years since 1995, many people have come to know part of the story of Aaron Feuerstein and Malden Mills. President Bill Clinton honored Feuerstein during his 1996 State of the Union address, and the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes”ran a feature about him in 2003, dubbing him “The Mensch of Malden Mills.”

But not everyone who admires Aaron Feuerstein knows about the source of his powerful personal morality. Feuerstein happens to be an Orthodox Jew, who draws his guidance on all ethical matters from Jewish tradition, religious teachings, and ultimately the Hebrew scriptures. And this aspect of Feuerstein’s story – so central to his life, yet largely neglected in the mainstream accounts – is the one I want to emphasize here.

In applying biblical teachings to practical business questions, Feuerstein is following a family tradition. In a speech on “The People and the Community” at MIT, he recalled his grandfather’s practice of distributing paychecks to the workers at Malden Mills before sunset, citing the book of Deuteronomy (24:14-15) as justification: “Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin.”

And by “alien,” Feuerstein emphasized, “they meant all people, all faiths, all races.”

Because he viewed the workers at his textile plant as his equals in the eyes of God, Feuerstein had no other option than to do what he could to keep them whole, to prevent them and their families from suffering privation as a result of the tragic fire.

And because he was deeply rooted in a lifetime of Jewish practice, worship, study, and prayer, the notion of doing what was easy and self-serving – simply pocketing the insurance payments – never even occurred to him. As Feuerstein remarked when a reporter asked about the money, “And what would I do with it? Eat more? Buy another suit? Retire and die? No, that did not go into my mind.”

* * * * *


Feuerstein’s dark counterpart in the business arena may be another man who has garnered far more publicity and attention for his very different behavior – the fraudulent investment manager Bernard Madoff.

The outlines of the Madoff saga are well known – in fact, judging by the volume of coverage his case received, probably far more widely known than the heroic story of Aaron Feuerstein. And this disparity itself is one reason why I find the contrasting stories of Feuerstein and Madoff so revealing.

Beginning as a penny-stock trader, Madoff gradually developed a wide-ranging network of clients for whom he bought and sold stocks as well as providing investment advice. His company also developed innovative computer technology to disseminate stock prices, which helped lead to the creation of the automated stock-trading system known as NASDAQ. In time, Madoff become a prominent leader among NASDAQ dealers, even serving as the organization’s non-executive chairman.

For more than forty years, Madoff cultivated a reputation as an outstanding citizen and an astute businessman. So exceptional were the financial returns reported on Madoff’s accounts that the number of individuals and institutions vying to become his clients grew steadily. Well-known organizations, including universities and nonprofits, gave Madoff Securities portions of their endowments to manage; in prominent social circles, Madoff clients bragged about their financial success and considered themselves lucky to be among the favored circle of people who benefited from Madoff’s talents.

All in all, it was the image of a charmed life – a dedicated family man, an industry leader, a consummate professional – until the whole thing was exposed as a horrendous fraud.

Using the techniques of the classic Ponzi scheme, his company had been distributing funds from new investors to older clients, identifying them as “profits” on investment accounts. But as we now know, the profits weren’t real because in most accounts there were no investments at all. The money had been used to pay fake dividends to other victims and also to support Bernard Madoff’s lavish lifestyle – including his homes in Manhattan, Montauk, Palm Beach, and southern France – while Madoff shuffled cash around and doctored financial reports in an increasingly desperate effort to hide what was happening.

By the first week of December, with the stock market reeling from the global financial meltdown, Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was collapsing. He confessed to his sons not only that he didn’t have the money to cover some $7 billion in redemptions requested by anxious clients, but also that the entire business had been run in a fraudulent manner for years. It was “just one big lie,” he told them.

Madoff’s sons reported the confession to federal authorities, and by December 11, Madoff was under arrest. Almost $65 billion supposedly held in client accounts, including both actual investment funds and fabricated gains, had disappeared.

By June 29, 2009, when Madoff was sentenced to the maximum possible term of 150 years in prison on multiple counts of fraud and perjury, he had become one of the world’s most famous – and most hated – individuals.

At a time when millions of ordinary investors were watching their savings dwindle under the impact of the financial meltdown of 2008-2009, it was probably inevitable that the spectacular tale of Bernie Madoff, replete with celebrity victims and page-six lifestyles, should capture the world’s attention as the embodiment of all that’s worst in the world of high finance.

Far more disturbing, however, is another aspect of the Madoff saga. I’m referring to the way in which Bernard Madoff has, for many people, come to symbolize not just the dangers of greed and dishonesty, but something much more specific, questionable, and troubling – namely, the supposed role of the Jew in the world of money.

There’s no evidence that Madoff read the Torah nightly or devoted himself to ethical study as Aaron Feuerstein did. In that sense (and leaving aside the evidence of their respective business behaviors), we might assume that Feuerstein is more personally devoted to Jewish tradition and teachings than Madoff. But there’s no denying that, in ethnic, social, and cultural terms, Bernard Madoff is Jewish – just like Aaron Feuerstein.

And unfortunately, Madoff’s “Jewishness” became, for some people, the central story of the Madoff scandal.

At the Anti-Defamation League, one of our jobs is to monitor signs of evolving attitudes among religious, ethnic, and racial groups. In the wake of the Bernard Madoff scandal, we knew we would see an outpouring of rage against this man whose criminal behavior had harmed so many innocent victims – and indeed we did. But we wondered how much of that rage would focus on Madoff’s ethnic and religious heritage.

The intolerant ones did not pass up this opportunity.

During the months between Madoff’s arrest and his sentencing, hundreds of news sites, blogs, and financial message boards that ran stories about the Madoff scandal were inundated with responses that focused not on the villainy of one man but on the supposed propensity of all Jews to commit fraud in pursuit of profit.

Was Bernie Madoff Jewish? Undoubtedly. But was his faith the single most salient fact about him? Judging by the news coverage of his story, you might think so.

A profile of the scamster in the New York Postplayed the “Jewish angle” for all it was worth; similarly, a profile of Madoff published in The New York Timesjust two days after his arrest managed to use the word “Jewish” three times in its first nine paragraphs.

* * * * *


These two stories are not directly related. But a comparison of the ways these stories have been covered in the mainstream media reveals something important – and disturbing – about our society and its attitudes.

In the case of Aaron Feuerstein, one of the most unusual and admirable business figures of our time, his religious heritage was treated, in most media coverage, as an interesting but distinctly secondary theme – despite the fact that being a devout Jew profoundly shaped the very ethical behavior that made Feuerstein newsworthy in the first place.

By contrast, in the case of Bernard Madoff, story after story emphasized his Jewish background – despite the fact that it was basically irrelevant to the history of fraud and deception that placed Madoff in the spotlight.

Why this difference? I don’t believe most of the writers and editors who covered these two stories had any religious or ethnic animus toward Jews. But I do think it’s easy for all of us – including media professionals who should be especially sensitive to this danger – to fall back on familiar images, themes, and stereotypes.

It’s a form of lazy thinking that is difficult to avoid, especially when society is so deeply permeated by a particular pattern of ideas that many people aren’t even fully aware of its ubiquity. And the pattern of stereotypes that the Madoff story activated in the minds of many people is a particularly deep-seated and pernicious one – the age-old pattern of false and slanderous beliefs about Jews and money.

With the United States and the world still struggling to overcome the impact of what many have called the Great Recession of 2008-2009, this is an especially dangerous time for these bigoted beliefs to reemerge.

Abraham Foxman is national director of the Anti-Defamation League. This essay was adapted from his new book (released earlier this week), “Jews and Money.” 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/the-medias-madoff-moment/2010/11/10/

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