Pacific Jewish Center | Rabbi

The Rabbi on the Beach @ The Shul on the Beach

Which Of These is the Nobel Peace Prize Winner?


Last week Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison. In the early days of my blog I wrote a couple of Madoff posts (check them out if you have not seen them).

His recent sentencing reminded me about something that I did not post in the fallout from the scandal. This post is not “news” but its message is timeless.

Shortly after Madoff confessed his crimes and the number of victims began to pile up, it was revealed that noted author and famous Holocaust survivor, Eli Wiesel was defrauded of $37 million. Another victim of note was actor Kevin Bacon, married to fellow actor Keyra Sedgwick, who was reportedly cleaned out by Madoff’s scheme.

Wiesel’s reaction was predictable. He called for Madoff’s head and publicly lobbied for Madoff to be severely punished. There was name-calling, as Wiesel called Madoff “evil, thief, a scoundrel” and Wiesel came off as a justifiably broken, bitter, and angry man.

Wiesel made headlines when he was asked the following question at a breakfast meeting:

Asked if he could forgive Madoff, Wiesel paused for a very long moment. “Could I ever forgive him?” he asked, almost to himself. Finally, he said firmly “No,” to a burst of applause.

Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel could not make peace with the man who defrauded him.

(Equally disturbing is the round of applause following an announcement that Madoff was unforgivable. None of those who applauded have ever been forgiven?)

What was interesting to me was the reaction by actors Kevin Bacon and Keyra Sedgwick when they commented on their losses to Madoff. Sedgwick spoke on their behalf:

“…the fact of the matter is that we did not lose everything, we lost hard-earned money that we worked very hard for that was what we thought in a safe place. It’s painful but a lot of people lost a lot more. And we have a lot of things to be grateful for in our life, and we never ever forget that.”

I sense a completely different tone from the Hollywood couple than that of Wiesel. They seem at peace with their prediciment and recognize that money is just money.  There is so much more to be thankful and appreciative for in life that it seems silly to get angry and bitter over a tough financial situation.

Contrast that attitude with Wiesel and maybe we should give the Bacon / Sedgwick couple a Peace Prize too!

Believe me, I can understand Wiesel’s cantankerous mood after losing his personal fortune and his charity’s funds, especially after surviving the Holocaust. I may have had the same reaction. What is refreshing to me, is the reaction of the Hollywood couple. They realize that it is really just money and they have a lot of other things to be thankful for in their lives.

Many of us are going to financial hardship in these tough economic times. It is important for us to keep everything in perspective as remember it is just money and we do have so much else for we should be thankful.

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