State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) lost her life savings in the Bernard Madoff scam. Still, she says, “while this issue is important for me and for my family, I keep concentrating on the fact that I am probably better off than a good part of the country.”

Loretta Weinberg

“I’ve never lived above my means,” said Weinberg, who added that she has “satisfying work to do, which I plan to continue.”

Weinberg admits that the financial loss took her by surprise.

“I had never heard of Madoff before a week ago Friday,” Weinberg told The Jewish Standard. “I had no idea my IRA was invested with him.” Nor, she said, did she realize that she was in an investment group “with so many other Jewish people.”

“This is not how I planned to become well-known,” she joked.

Weinberg’s savings, along with those of many in her extended family, were invested with Stanley Chais, a Los Angeles money manager, who also fell victim to Madoff.

Among the other victims was the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity – something that Weinberg said “made me angry.”

“I hope that’s something Madoff has to think about every morning when he gets up and every night when he goes to bed,” she said. “I hope he knows that’s his legacy.”

To the extent that those connected with the scam were themselves Jewish, Weinberg said, “they clearly never absorbed Jewish values.”

Weinberg said that after an account of her loss appeared in the Reporter, anti-Semitic comments flowed onto the site, some of which have now been removed.

“I don’t think we should be worried,” she said, calling the scandal “just another reason for these people to express themselves. They were there before and they will be there after this is long forgotten,” she said.

Weinberg said the SEC should “do its job” and regulate such financial endeavors, looking more closely at their operations.

“I was under the impression that my money manager was investing in stocks and bonds,” she said, pointing out that she got regular statements and filed detailed tax forms.

She told the Standard that she has reached out to Rep. Steven Rothman (D-9) and Sen. Robert Menendez, asking them to research “laws, rules, and regulations concerning statutes of limitation.” For example, she said, she believes that there are three-year time limits to amend tax returns.

Her hope is that groups affected by the Madoff scam will be able to amend tax returns in which they paid taxes on – it turns out – non-existent investments.

“What’s most important is what’s happened to Jewish philanthropy,” she said, citing foundations that will no longer be able to donate to Jewish causes.

Reverting to the theme of anti-Semitism, Weinberg stressed, “We can’t be afraid of it. We have to face it.” But, she added, “the little worms who want to come out should put their names [on their attacks].”

“We have to speak out and confront anti-Semites,” she said. “We have nothing to be embarrassed about. Even banks get robbed.”