January 23, 2009

Clarifying Madoff’s AJCongress Relations

The casual reader might understand from one unintentionally ambiguous sentence in your report on the impact of the Madoff scandal on the American Jewish Congress that Madoff was a member of its investment committee. He was not, and he has not had any personal involvement with us since the early 1980s (“AJCongress Crippled by Madoff Scandal,” January 16).

When the committee met in November, Madoff was invited to explain to the committee why it should recommend leaving our investments with his company. The other investment company holding our endowment was invited to make a similar presentation, as did a third company.

The committee heard all three presentations, and decided that it wanted to hear additional presentations before making any investment decisions.

Slamming Bush While Ignoring FDR’s Record

Your January 16 editorial “Preserve, Protect, Defend,” which accuses President Bush of “willful disregard of basic civil rights for detainees,” reminded me of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, during which more than 100,000 Japanese immigrants and their American children were thrown into internment camps, and thousands more of German and Italian descent were arrested or detained. By contrast, Bush has actively sought to protect Arabs and Muslims from discrimination.

It is interesting to note that many of those who regard President Bush with such utter aversion view Roosevelt’s presidency so positively. The failure of President Bush’s critics to place his civil rights record in the context of those of past wartime presidents, such as Roosevelt, suggests a predisposition toward judging Bush’s policies harshly.

What if Peace Now Is Not a Possibility?

With respect to the January 9 article “Dovish Jewish Groups Break Ranks, Call for Cease-Fire,” Americans for Peace Now and other such groups do not understand that the question is not “Do you want peace?” The question is “What are the terms and the conditions of the peace?”

Until Israel’s enemies decide that they no longer want to destroy it, Israel’s struggle must continue. Every nation has the right to defend itself. Some 6,000 rockets fired into Israel since Gaza disengagement tell the story. This the Peace (at any price) Now people cannot understand.

It Wasn’t My Family’s Lehman Brothers

Although the Forward ran a very thorough story about the collapse of Lehman Brothers, I would like to explain further why the company that filed for bankruptcy last year was not the Lehman Brothers that was founded 158 years before (“The Lehmans? They’ve Moved On. Sad? A Little,” September 26).

Because I am a great-grandson of one of the founders of the original Lehman Brothers company, I am very familiar with its history. My ancestor, Mayer Lehman, was one of the three brothers who founded the company in 1844 in Montgomery, Ala. It grew into a prominent financial firm on Wall Street and remained prominent until 1984.

The original Lehman Brothers ended in 1984 when it was acquired by the American Express Company.

In 1994, a new firm within American Express was created and distributed to the shareholders of American Express. It included some elements of the old Lehman Brothers, as well as some elements of Kuhn, Loeb, which had also been acquired by the American Express Company. Richard Fuld, a bond trader from the old Lehman Brothers, was appointed CEO of the new company.

Recognizing the name value of the first Lehman Brothers company, the group obtained from American Express the right to use the Lehman Brothers name for the new company.

In short, the Lehman Brothers company that went into bankruptcy is not a 158-year-old firm. It is a 14-year-old firm that adopted the name of an earlier great and distinguished firm.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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January 23, 2009

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