There is a Yiddish word that describes Bernie Madoff, it is ganef. A ganef is a thief. By now, it goes without saying, anyone who is aware of the Madoff name, will forever attribute it to thievery. Not just simple thievery, but the theft of the dreams people had for themselves and their families, the theft of the ability for many to provide simply decent food, shelter and health care for themselves in their declining years, the theft of trust felt by various affinity groups.
One man this week, himself defrauded by Madoff, has taken it upon himself to make other Madoff victims whole. Robert I. Lappin, owner of Shetland Properties in Salem, Massachusetts claims to have lost 90% of his personal wealth to the Madoff scheme, but apparently feeling responsibility for his 60 employees who also had their 401K’s heavily invested Madoff Securities, has made all of his employee’s whole, by paying out $5 million of his remaining funds to restore the 401K’s of his employees at Shetland Properties, and the employees of his own charitable foundation (the Robert L. Lapin Charitable Foundation).
In an article by Sean Sposito in the Boston Globe, Lappin is quoted:
“I wanted to do the right thing,’’ Lappin said. “And, I feel, I’ve done the right thing and that to me is my reward.’’
The article goes on to say:
Alan Pierce, a Salem attorney whose law practice is located in a Shetland property, praised Lappin, but said his generosity should not come as a surprise.
“Restoring his employee benefits speaks to the type of guy he is,’’ said Pierce, who also serves as president of the Jewish Historical Society of the North Shore. “He’s always been the most philanthropic and generous of people in the area of charities. He’s done it without fanfare and he’s done it generously, even though he’s suffered some significant setbacks with the Madoff scandal.’’
Lappin has also revived his charity, which supports Jewish education and culture programs on the North Shore. On Sunday, the foundation helped send 82 Jewish teens to Israel after raising $450,000 in private donations for the Youth to Israel travel program.
Robert Lapin is not just a singular individual, selflessly lending a hand to his fellow man, there have always been people like this, through all time, cognizant that they have a responsibility, a moral imperative, to look out for, protect, nurture, lift up, do right by their fellow man. There is a Yiddish word for these kind of people, it is mentsh. A mentsh is an honorable, decent man. Robert I. Lappin is a mentsh, as are countless other decent Americans who sacrifice for others.
The Boston Globe has begun documenting some of people of the greater Boston area who have sacrificed for others in their series titled Sacrifices that saved someone’s paycheck.
Do readers here know of other examples of selfless human beings, other mentsh’s? Of course you do, just think about it, a good place to start is your first teachers, likely someone vastly underpaid and overworked, who’s motives were to give you the tools to not just survive, but to thrive. And of course there are others, in other vocations, in other walks of life, and they definately out number the ganefs. Will the mentsh’s always outnumber the ganefs? Only if we each do our part, trying to live an exempliary life, instilling the appropriate ethical and moral values in our children, cherishing and respecting each other as humans.