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Giving Ruth Madoff the benefit of the doubt

November 24, 2016 22:51

A couple of days ago I wrote about how few people had come to the defence of Ruth Madoff, Bernie's wife. Now, Debra Nussbaum Cohen quotes from Ruth's statement, on The Sisterhood, one of the Forward's blogs:

"From the moment I learned from my husband that he had committed an enormous fraud, I have had two thoughts – first, that so many people who trusted him would be ruined financially and emotionally, and second, that my life with the man I have known for over 50 years was over … Lives have been upended and futures have been taken away. All those touched by this fraud feel betrayed; disbelieving the nightmare they woke to. I am embarrassed and ashamed. Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years.”

I find her claim that she does not know her husband –- her high school sweetheart – intriguing.

Is it, as one friend claimed at a lively shabbat dinner table discussion last week, simply a legal maneuver to distance herself from being further implicated in Bernie’s criminal conduct?

But I wonder if we ever truly know even the people with whom we are most intimate. On this question the two married couples at the table were silent. Only the never-married man at the table thought she must have known what was going on. The rest of us, perhaps, knew better.

After all, even among couples in my generation (late-30s to 50s), many times one partner handles the finances and the other says that she (usually it’s the wife) leaves it in her husband’s hands.

All the more so for couples of the Madoffs’ generation. Ruth is 67, Bernie 71. It was typical, when they were married 50 years ago, for women to be uninvolved in their family financial life and certainly in their husbands’ business affairs, even if they were close in other respects.

I feel sure that she enjoyed all of the material fruits of her husband’s fraud. But I think she can only be blamed for greed and willful ignorance. And, to a certain extent, can’t we all?

November 24, 2016 22:51

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