-i- HLY MIX OF IDEAS
George Cantor's Reality Check column will return next week
n today's ever-so-exhausted discus-
sion of the saddened state of the
economy, it has become all too easy
to point fingers at our elected leaders.
With broad optimism in the still new and
exciting administration, we, as a nation,
have placed considerable hope in the
"promises" of the future.
As we fold our unplayable cards and
await a string of luck from a new dealer, is
it possible that our hope is displaced?
When it comes to putting a face on
accountability, we must all reevaluate the
true source of power in a democratic gov-
ernment: the people.
We the people have greater potential
than to simply look to policy, yet we wait
for policy to force change. Illustrated by
President Obama's implementation of the
White House pay freeze last month, he has
decided to tighten the belt at the symbolic
epicenter of our nation.
We as Americans must get on board
with this newfound sacrificial attitude in
our everyday behaviors. We look towards
the government for a greener and more
energy-efficient future, yet we
refuse to change our own waste-
ful and damaging behaviors at
Today, we are guilty of leaving
our lights on, chargers plugged in
and cars running. We consume
warehouse quantities of water
bottles that poison our air and
Has it ever occurred that we
as individuals are capable of a
faster, more effective and long-
run change than our government
is capable of providing?
Overindulgence is an integral compo-
nent of American culture; while we resist
curbing our lifestyles, this is all it may
take. Could it be greed and impatience to
wait for things we cannot yet afford that
has contributed to this massive credit
crisis? Could it be our double bagging of
groceries in plastic bags at the supermar-
ket that is contributing to the overflowing
We want alternatives for oil and gas,
which is a priority when gas
prices are high and we are
outraged to pay them, but
stop applying the pressure
when gas prices are low and
wonder why research has
We must eliminate this
between what we want and
how we act as individuals and
as a community.
The auto and financial
industries have demonstrated
some disgusting behaviors.
Their profits are shared privately while
their risks and consequences of poor
management are socialized and placed on
Our behaviors can counter their
destructive tendencies, so long as they
are productive and we all begin to do our
part, right now. It takes a single member
of a single household to embrace an ever
so slight change in their routine. Turn the
light off. Recycle. Buy American. Be fiscally
responsible. Forbear complaining until
you are sure that you have done every-
thing you can do to better the situation.
Look internally for help.
These behaviors will be emulated and
the difference will be exponential. The
multiplier effect is intrinsically conta-
gious; so let's allow this to catch. Let us
do all we can to bail ourselves out, and
become accountable before we displace
the blame on to those who are at least pre-
tending to try.
members of the community, we
must ensure that we are not taking part
in a similar strategy. We cannot partake in
greedy behaviors of our own and look to
the government to bail us out of our own
personal irresponsibility while shunning
the corporations for doing the same.
Aaron Jeremy Seidman of West Bloomfield
graduated from West Bloomfield High in 2006.
He is a junior at the University of Michigan,
studying organizational studies and political
science. He is spending the semester studying
foreign policy in Washington, D.C.
Solvinp The Madoff Mess
ernard Madoff almost stole the
He stole the financial future
of many decent, philanthropic individu-
als. He stole the future of some organiza-
tions that have been forced to shut their
doors. He stole the future of bright, eager
students dependent on financial aid from
universities whose financial future Madoff
also stole. (All this is in addition to the
serious damage he inflicted upon the
When Madoff stole millions from my
organization, the American Technion
Society, he lifted some of the glow off the
future of science, technology and medi-
cine. It's as if he had blundered onto the
Technion campus and proceeded to wreck
the laboratories where the future was
being forged. And moved destructively
into classrooms, scattering the students
and professors. And stomped through the
campus, where he laid waste to the library
and synagogue, the student dormitories
and theater, the fitness center and cafete-
ria, damaging the people and
facilities that are at the center
of Israel's future.
How, I continue to wonder,
is it possible for a single indi-
vidual to perpetrate so much
evil, to destroy so much? Could
we have done anything to stop
him, to curtail the damage?
By now, I have given up on
finding rational answers. While
there is always some element
of trust and human judgment
involved in retaining financial
managers, and while processes
can be tightened, nothing can guarantee
safety from a massive, well-planned fraud
like this one.
Now it is time for the Jewish community
to move past these unanswerable ques-
tions. Despite the considerable damage he
inflicted, Madoff failed to steal our future.
He left it damaged, surely; but our strong
foundation is still standing, certainly more
than enough to serve as the basis for a
swift and sure comeback. And we are in a
place to reshape the future.
Jewish parents used to
encourage their children's learn-
ing by repeating the age-old
truism that no one can ever take
away your education. Now I say
that no one, not even a hundred
Bernard Madoffs, can steal the
Jewish community's future
because no one can injure the
confidence in our ability to
shape and reshape that future.
I am greatly encouraged by
early proof of this thinking.
Already a number of our sup-
porters have — on their own
— called to make large, unscheduled gifts.
This is likely the case in other organiza-
tions and institutions. When I ask what
prompted their unsolicited decision, their
words echo my thoughts: We must move
beyond this and forward; we must take
back the future; we must ensure that Israel
has what it needs to not only survive but
These conversations leave me wonder-
ing: If one awful individual can wreak
such havoc, how much power does one
committed, brilliant, energetic individual
have to undo the damage? Or a dozen? Or
hundreds of thousands? In fact, we could
do so much more; we could change the
We have, in fact, already done so. Jewish
history, our mere presence in the world
today, is itself a miracle, not only of sur-
vival but of astounding achievements
against what surely must have looked like
This latest affair, by comparison, is
merely a blip, well below those many
defining moments in our history. Bernard
Madoff almost stole the future. Now it is
up to all of us to restore it.
In May, a hundred or more of us will be
on the Technion campus for our annual
mission. We'll be listening to professors
and students explain the research and the
studies they conduct with our support.
We'll be seeing the future unfold before
our eyes, and we'll know that it's theirs,
ours and the world's, too. LI
Melvyn H. Bloom is executive vice president of
the American Technion Society.
March 26 * 2009