Thursday, May 21, 2009

Madoff's Effect on Yesha Musician

Madoff Loss Hits Art Aid for Young in Israel

...the America-Israel Cultural Foundation.

Small and little known outside Israel, the foundation has enormous influence there and in classical music worldwide. Receiving one of its scholarships for lessons, conservatory tuition or study abroad is an essential stamp of approval for Israeli musicians, and the foundation counts renowned musicians like Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Gil Shaham and Yefim Bronfman as recipients when they were students. But this year, disaster looms. The foundation’s endowment of about $14 million was in the hands of Bernard Madoff and evaporated in his Ponzi scheme. Like other victims of the fraud the foundation received statements showing false earnings tied to the stock market, said David Homan, the foundation’s New York-based executive director.

...The foundation was one of many Jewish organizations hit hard by the Madoff scandal. The financial debacle has raised the prospect that it could shut down.

“I just can’t believe it will happen, or that people will let it happen,” said Orit Naor, its executive director in Israel.

So far about $1 million in emergency money has been raised from individuals, corporations and foundations, as well as the national lottery, to ensure that this year’s recipients are given their grants and maintain a slimmed-down program next fall. To save money the foundation dismissed most of its staff in its Tel Aviv and New York offices. A gala fund-raiser is planned for Carnegie Hall in January to celebrate the foundation’s 70th anniversary, and many of the big-name recipients will perform.

The loss has already meant hardship for Micha Finkelstein, 19, a cellist in the army who lives in Tekoa, a West Bank settlement. His scholarship, for lessons, was cut in half. His parents made up the difference. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of the scholarships here. They serve as credentials to be admitted to other music programs around the country. Some students choose their teachers based on the number of past scholarship winners they have taught. Some want to audition even knowing that there is no chance of a scholarship...

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