And he's also the great-grandson of…
…Rabbi Isaac Breuer, after whom Breuer's, the KAJ kosher supervision, is named.
Martin Peretz blogs over at the New Republic:
…A second man I thought might be tempted by a shortcut to the after-life is J. Ezra Merkin, although he himself seems also to have been hurt by putting some of his own money in the funds (Ascot Partners LP and Gabriel Partners LP) slipped to Madoff. One problem with Merkin is that he worked a street he purported to love, the Jewish street (not alone in this particular ethnocentric moral squalor; there were others in Boston, Palm Beach and Minneapolis) to get friends, foundations and operating charitable institutions to invest. Ah, with whom? With himself. But he hid from his investors the fact that Madoff was the golden goose. This did not keep him from taking circa 1 1/2 percent annually as a management fee for money he did not manage.
Like Madoff himself, Merkin supped off charities in which he was active and to which, presumably, he gave money: the Fifth Avenue Synagogue (of which he was president), Yeshiva University, the Ramaz School, all by the way modern Orthodox in character. There were many Israeli institutions that lost fortunes, some of them with Merkin, some with Madoff himself. The Technion (Israel's M.I.T. or C.I.T.), for example. And American philanthropies working in Israel: Hadassah, the American women's Zionist organization, that underwrites the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Then there were family foundations and individuals and charitable trusts, from small accounts to enormous ones. Some of them have already closed up shop.
When I saw Merkin's name on the list of culprits/victims (in the beginning they were intermingled), I have to confess feeling a small smile come to my face. Not that I expected any of this. But when it came, I wasn't exactly surprised. There was something in his carriage that was haughty and a little bit derisive. Maybe it was that the rest of us hadn't figured out how the world really works.
Merkin comes from real Jewish aristocracy. It's not his wealth that I mean: he's not a Rothschild or a Sassoon, a Schiff or a Kedourie. But he does come from people of real learning. His great-great grandfather was Samson Raphael Hirsch and his grandfather was Isaac Breuer, perhaps the two most significant figures in the development of modern Jewish orthodoxy, institutionally in Germany and philosophically around the world. (If any of this intrigues you, there are ways to read about the two on-line. Google the Encyclopedia Judaica, and go on from there.) This is a fall from grace...to the financial gutter.…
[Hat Tip: Dr. Gershon Mendel.]