“As one Jew to another, I deeply regret that the Sorkin family did not perish in the Nazi death camps.”
This is one example, as reported by The New York Times on Wednesday, of the hatred being directed toward Ira Sorkin, the lead lawyer defending Bernard Madoff. As one Jew to another, this reaction – and others like it – is absolutely disgraceful.
Madoff pleaded guilty yesterday to bilking billions in a Ponzi scheme that robbed many individuals of their life savings and crippled mainly Jewish charities. There is little doubt that he will deservingly hold the title of “Most Hated Man in America” for months, if not years, to come. Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, whose Foundation for Humanity lost $15 million, has called for Madoff to be placed in solitary confinement and forced to watch images of his victims. Anything that can be done to Madoff should be done, Wiesel reportedly said last week. Strong words from a man who witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust.
Considering the extent of the damage and the repercussions Madoff’s actions will have on the millions of people who relied on the charities now struggling just to survive (not to mention the ones that were forced to shutter), we can certainly understand Wiesel’s words.
But we must maintain perspective. Madoff is the villain in this story, not Sorkin. Despite the fact that Sorkin’s family lost money to Madoff, he still will defend him. Sorkin told the Times that “to preserve a system that can protect the people who didn’t do bad things, you have to represent people who did do bad things.”
He is right. As much as we want to condemn Madoff for his crimes, as much as we feel the sorrow of those who have lost everything and become destitute, and as much as we might want to cry out for revenge, we must remember that Madoff still has the right to due process under the Constitution of the United States. If we allow ourselves to lose sight of this then the damage done by Madoff will extend beyond the physical and into our very souls.
Sorkin understands this. We may not be rooting for Sorkin to succeed in his defense – which was unlikely, inasmuch as Madoff was expected to plead guilty anyway – but we must respect him for his commitment to the ideals of our Constitution.