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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jewish Heirlooms and Bernie Madoff

With the 150 year sentence delivered to Bernie Madoff on Monday comes the conclusion of one of the most devastating ponzi schemes ever. The impact of Mr. Madoff’s actions affected everyone from investors to actors and even inspiring figures such as Elie Wiesel. The repercussions of such a scheme has impacted the Jewish community beyond the loss of foundation funds amassed by award winning author and Holocaust survivor Wiesel. Many of the Jewish investors who lost everything have resorted to selling precious heirlooms that had been in their family for years, leading to a market flooded with Jewish antiques.

One such heartbreaking story is the tale of Elisa Schindler, daughter of prominent Rabbi Alexander Schindler covered by CNN’s Mary Snow. The story relates that Schindler has been forced to sell important and sacred items given to her by her late father because of the destruction caused by the swindle of Bernie Madoff. The items include a silver Torah Crown made in the 20th century and a Yad or Torah Pointer that dates as far back as 1780. The Yad is of particular importance because it is one of the few items of Judaica to survive Holocaust era Europe. These items had been accumulated during Alexander Schindler’s long career as a Rabbi and have recently been auctioned off. Crain’s suggested that the total worth of the items might exceed $30,000, but the auction results have not been disclosed.

This is a familiar tale for the Jewish community as of late, and many instances of similar sacrifices have flooded the news. The deep impact of the investment fraud has resulted in families having to part possessions that are very dear to them. A recent article in Crain’s features Jonathan Greenstein, chairman of an auction house that specializes in antique Judaica (Potkewitz). He notes that from January on he has received an unusually large amount of inquiries into the value of family heirlooms relating to the Jewish culture. Auction houses have seen a high volume of such items lately; a sign of the great desperation that many families are now experiencing. This unfortunate situation gets even worse; since so many have had to resort to selling their items, the market is flooded and their current worth is far less than it could have been prior to the Madoff case.

This unfortunate tale of greed and desperate measures naturally points to the importance of appraising heirlooms- Judaica and otherwise. Families rarely realize the real value of the items that have been passed down to them. Besides the priceless sentimental value there is inevitably a monetary value that changes according to the market. MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. specializes in appraising an almost endless range of items and would be happy to research your items and inform you of their place in today’s market. Establishing the value of your precious items is essential for peace of mind and can be helpful in times of prosperity and hardship.

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 814-8510

Works cited:
Elmore, Charles. “Nobel Prize-Winner Elie Wiesel Calls Bernie Madoff a ‘Scoundrel’,” on Palm Beach Daily
Potkewitz, Hillary. “Madoff Victims Flood Judaica Market with Treasures,” on Crain’s New Snow, Mary. “Family Caught in Madoff Swindle Forced to Sell Jewish Heirlooms,” on


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    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.