The story that Westporter Rhea Schindler has lost everything — her husband entrusted his life savings to Bernie Madoff — devastated me like no other economic news, in this year of devastating economic news.
I know Rhea Schindler.
According to the New York Daily News, as relayed by WestportNow.com, Rhea — whose late husband Alex was a rabbi, and former head of the world’s largest wing of Reform Judaism — is selling her most beloved possessions. Included is a silver Torah crown, an antique Torah pointer from the 1700s — and the home where the couple lived for decades, and raised five children.
I’d heard similar stories, of course — some tied to Westport National Bank. But those tales involved boldface names like John Denver, Katherine Thalberg and John Malkovich. Their personal accounts or estates were managed by Harold Thau, whose company’s investments were unwittingly entangled in the largest Ponzi scheme in history.
Rhea and Alex were my parents’ friends. I know their kids. I’ve been to Rhea’s home — the one she must now sell.
The news that Rhea Schindler is a victim of Bernie Madoff is profoundly, achingly upsetting. It puts a vivid human face on what had been to me an enormous, yet still abstract, tragedy.
I hope there will be no more news like this, in our town or our country.
But I know there will be.