Teen seeks donations for foundation scammed by Madoff

Teen seeks donations for foundation scammed by Madoff

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel lost several million dollars of his personal fortune and his foundation took a $15.2 million hit in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Now, one 13-year-old from Tenafly has taken it upon himself to raise money for the struggling Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

Colin Mark, an eighth-grader at Tenafly Middle School, has mailed out almost 50 letters so far to community members as he tries to raise $1,100 for the foundation. He chose the amount, he said, because Oskar Schindler saved 1,100 Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

“Oskar Schindler was an example that kept popping up when it came to indifference,” Colin said. “Oskar Schindler was a perfect example of somebody who could have ignored what was going on and refused to.”

Colin is conducting the project as part of the Resources Offered in Gifted and Talented Education program of the Sewell-based Education Information and Resource Center. The two-year project is meant to teach basic research and critical-thinking skills.

Thirteen-year-old Colin Mark wants to raise $1,100 to send to The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, which lost $15 million in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

“The Elie Wiesel Foundation struck me as the perfect place to raise money for, because they work with religious tolerance,” he said, noting that the theme of his project is overcoming indifference – a theme present in his bar mitzvah portion of Ki Tetzei, which he read in September.

“My parsha was about indifference and why you can’t remain indifferent,” he said. “When I found out the Elie Wiesel Foundation had gone bust because of Bernie Madoff, I said we have to help these people.”

When he began his research project last year, Colin decided to work with the hypothesis that voters in U.S. presidential elections are significantly influenced by the religious beliefs of the candidates. Of 100 people polled in a Pew Research Group survey last year, 65 said they were less likely to vote for a nonbeliever.

“I conducted my project to show that even in a racially tolerant country like the United States of America, where we pride ourselves on accepting everyone, real bias is affecting our government,” Colin said. “We cannot remain indifferent to the fact that people are making biased decisions.”

On Monday, Colin presented his project to the confirmation class at his synagogue, where he has received high praise for his initiative.

“This is a student who’s special, who has a real vision of what it means to be a Jew,” said Rabbi Jordan Millstein. “He’s taking the opportunity to connect and saying, ‘I’m going to make a contribution to something that matters to me.'”

All b’nai mitzvah students at Temple Sinai must do a mitzvah project, which helps make them aware of the importance of contributing to society, Millstein added.

In recent months, small and large donations totaling $400,000 have flowed into The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, the Conde Nast Portfolio business magazine’s Website disclosed March 26. Some of the money was given directly to Wiesel and his wife, Marion, but the couple reportedly turned everything over to the foundation.

“At any moment it would have been an amazing outpouring of generosity,” Marion Wiesel told Portfolio.com, “but specifically in these times it’s so amazing, and it continues.”

Donations to the foundation, which supports after-school centers in Israel, organizes international conferences, and bestows various humanitarian awards and prizes, have ranged from $5 to $100.

Two alumni of Boston University, where Wiesel has taught for more than 30 years, have launched an e-mail campaign to encourage 1 million people to donate $6 each in remembrance of the 6 million Holocaust victims.

Small contributions came from “people we don’t know, in places we’ve never been to,” Marion Wiesel said.

To contribute to the foundation through Colin’s project, call him at (201) 541-7515.

JTA contributed to this report.

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