Bernard Madoff's Yom Kippur: 'He Can't Be Forgiven'

Federal prison allows Jewish inmates an evening of prayer on day of atonement.

ByVic Walter, Angela M. Hill and Brian Ross <br/> brian Ross Investigative Unit
September 28, 2009, 6:12 PM

Sept. 29, 2009&#151; -- On the first Yom Kippur since his multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme was exposed, Bernard Madoff was allowed to take the day off from his prison work detail at Butner prison in North Carolina and pray for forgiveness of his sins, according to a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson.

Prison officials would not say if Madoff, serving a 150-year sentence, took advantage of the day off on the holiest day of the year in the Jewish faith or whether he participated in an evening prayer session with other Jewish inmates on what is a day of atonement and repentance.

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"He should be asking every single person whom he lied to and whom he cheated for forgiveness," said Hasia Diner, a professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University.

Madoff's only apology came at his sentencing in June, when he briefly turned to face victims in the courtroom and said, "I'm sorry. I know that doesn't help you."

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Under Jewish tradition, one who has sinned should ask the victim for forgiveness three times to relieve himself of his burden of guilt.

Madoff's friends and family say he was never considered an observant Jew and often mocked his younger brother, Peter, who is an orthodox Jew.

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"He used to taunt Peter by saying his favorite food was pork," said one person close to the family in The Madoff Chronicles, published today.

Many of Madoff's victims are Jewish, including a large number of Jewish charities.

"The law of holiday is that he can't be forgiven by the Lord unless he gives us back our money," said Carla Hirschorn, one of the victims.

Madoff Victim Says Madoff 'Not Being a Human Being'

Asked what Madoff should atone for on Yom Kippur, another victim, Carol Baer said, "For not living his life as a Jewish person should. For not being a human being."

At the time of his arrest, Madoff's investors thought they he was holding more than $65 billion in stocks and cash for them.

Investigators discovered he had never traded a single stock over several decades.

Investors are expected to get, at most, five to 10 cents for each dollar they invested.

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