Thursday, December 18, 2008

May Salvation Arise

"Yekum Purkan," literally, "May Salvation Arise." It's the start of two ancient Aramaic prayers recited every Sabbath in traditional Ashkenazi congregations, that ask the Divine to protect sages, rabbis, students and community leaders. The second prayer requests grace, kindness, physical health, sustenence, healthy children and more for all the members of the congregation. Some synagogues add in prayers for those who work on behalf of the community, for the soldiers who defends us and the secular leaders who make significant decisions.

In this time of economic uncertainty and fear, it strikes me that perhaps we've left out a very important group of people who make a profound impact on all our lives. Those who make financial decisions on our behalf. Sadly, the need for such an appeal came ferociously to the fore this week with the arrest of investment giant Bernard Madoff who reportedly bilked his clients for at least $50 billion.

What's made Madoff's downfall especially lethal in my own microcosm has been its disproportionate blow for the Jewish community. At least two private foundations devoted to the Jewish community have folded and another is in jeopardy. Famous Jews including Elie Wiesel, Steven Spielberg and NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg (who made a $350,000 gift to my own place of employment), were hit especially hard by the Madoff scandal.

Numerous Jewish institutions including Yeshiva University and Hadassah have been hit hard, as have communities from New York to Palm Beach. Likewise, real estate companies owned by Jews like Newmark Knight Frank, Rexcorp and Sterling Equities (all of whom have employees and executives involved with my particular nonprofit) fell victim to Madoff's seductive promises of returns. Read it and try not to weep here (The Forward) and here (The New York Times).

Ronald A. Cass from the Wall Street Journal does a much better job of portraying Madoff's ability to exploit intergroup trust with his recent op-ed piece and I won't try to top him. But I will try to put my years of Jewish education to some good use with the following meditation.

"A Prayer for those Who Make Important & Impactful Financial Decisions"
May salvation arise from heaven and bring blessing, long life, health, faith and happy children to those whose daily actions and judgments affect us all. Grant them wisdom, guide their hands and endow them with intelligence. Remove from them enmity, egoism, greed and the shameless pursuit of self-interest. May the Divine be for you a source of help and may your respect for humanity keep you from all evil-doing. And let us say Amen.


SaraK said...

That prayer sounds great, we (the Jewish community) need it.

Josh said...

Ugh, that's all I can say. We have a 50,000 person event to celebrate Israel right in front of the US Capitol and we get one small picture in the middle of the Post. Yesterday, thanks to around $10 million, we were on page 1 of the Metro section. The implications of this one, specifically how it relates to family foundations and how they then relate to philanthropy, are not going to be clear for a while.