Letter: Madoff not just a subject for humor

Re: “A cappella group mocks Madoff in an original musical” (April 21). My father, Mitchell Levensohn, was in the graduating class of 1928. He was the wonderful son — brilliant, gentle, articulate — of impoverished parents. Harvard refused to accept him as being from a family too poor to possibly succeed. Yale accepted him under pressure from (non-Jewish) alumni who essentially shamed Yale into it. Mitch graduated first in his class, worked four jobs and won virtually every fellowship he applied for. He went on to get a Ph.D. in Classics and to teach at Yale College, the first Jew to do so. Ultimately, despite his brilliance, his political activism infuriated Yale, who saw him as their “show Jew” — handsome, articulate and a fine scholar. The Yale Corporation not only denied him tenure, but hounded him out of academia. Now, his beloved memory held close, it is all these years later.

Now I find myself a victim of Bernard Madoff. I am 65 years old, alone and now destitute, after 40 years of working and saving. I have no difficulty living simply; our family held that value close. But it is hard to be faced with homelessness, and there are nights when I lie awake rigid with fear. Many of Madoff’s victims have contemplated suicide. For me the pain and fear come not so much from the loss of money as from facing the reality of utter destitution.

Do not mistake the intent of this note: Humor is wonderful. I salute the News for the ability to laugh and make light; I too have laughed at some of the terribleness of this. But I think it is also important for Yale students and Jews and human beings to understand the terrible devastation Madoff has caused. Not all of the victims are or were people of great means.

There was a pervasive failure of government in this matter — failure involving deep sweeps across many agencies and suggesting a terrible failure of legislators and other public officials.

I hope Yale students, including those of you at the News, continue to make merry; I also hope that some of you will be the public officials of the future who care enough to take lesser salaries in exchange for safeguarding the public good.

Miriam Levensohn

April 21

New York City

Comments

  • Poker

    Why would anyone believe they could make 12% guaranteed annual interest on their investment? Even Yale's Swensen-technique has a fishy odor. Thw whole idea smells of usury somewhere in the food chain---even if Swenson's poker techniques are featured in Alumni Magazine.

  • Arthur

    Lighten up, Francis.

  • 109

    They have the right to put on musicals. If you don't like it, you don't have to see it, but don't stop others from seeing it.

  • @Poker

    Do not compare to what Swensen does - a method that is open and transparent - with a Ponzi scheme.

    It is an insult to coherent thought.

  • DoodleLover

    I am terribly sorry to hear about your situation, Miriam.

    And 109 - I don't think you fully understood her message. She is not trying to stop others from seeing the "lighter side" of things. I would like to point out that the title of this letter: "Madoff not JUST a subject for humor."

  • Huh

    What does being a Jew have to do with anything?

  • YC '66

    What being a Jew has to do with it is that most all of Madoff's investors, and the "investment advisors" who funneled money to Madoff for a fee, like J. Ezra Merkin, the chairman of GMAC, were Jews. The circles Madoff travelled in, and the people he fleeced, were primarily Madoff's co-religionists. But in fairness to Madoff, he was an equal-opportunity crook, and he also took money from Gentiles.

  • Huh? Duh.

    Being a Jew has to do with a lot in this case. The origins of the original Ponzi scheme are rooted in an Italian crook tricking other Italians to trust him with their money, just like Madoff went to fellow Jews for their investment-- exploitation of a tendency to trust those of a common background. Besides, being a Jew, Madoff knew how to talk to/gain the trust of other Jews more easily.

  • random dude

    Why didn't the YDN editors ask that this letter be re-written before publication? The fact of the matter is that the entire first part of the letter is irrelevant. Person above said it: being a Jew has nothing to do with anything here. And being the daughter of a Yale alum should not make readers of this piece any more sensitive to the real tragedy here: that unchecked greed and ambition left millions in the country today without the means to retire or support their families.

  • yaylie

    REPORTER (to Bernie Madoff): The federal government says you took billions from common people while promising unrealistic outcomes, then you squandered most of the money, and refused to accept accountability for your actions. How do you respond?

    BERNIE MADOFF: Well, that's really the pot calling the kettle black, isn't it?

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