Moments ago, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey confirmed that he will be recusing himself from the ongoing investigation into Bernie Madoff. The Justice Department didn't specify a specific reason for his decision to step aside—early reports have suggested that Mukasey's son, Marc, may be planning to represent a defendant in the case. But we can report a much more likely—and personal—reason why the Madoff case poses a serious conflict for the AG. Mukasey's own synagogue was ripped off by Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme.
On the list of organizations that suffered Madoff-related losses is Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side, the synagogue that Mukasey has been attending for years and an institution that reported that it had invested $3.5 million with Madoff. The Jewish day school affiliated with KJ, Ramaz, has suffered losses as well: The school reported having $6.5 million in Madoff accounts earlier this week. Mukasey, we've been told, has been attending the synagogue for decades, a fact confirmed in a 2007 interview with Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, with oversees both KJ and Ramaz, in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz: "He hasn't missed a single prayer during the High Holidays. "He might skip a prayer here and there, but he's a believer and a devout Jew." He goes on to point out that he also happened to be Mukasey's summer camp counselor when the two were kids. Now that certainly sounds like a sensible reason for Mukasey to step aside, doesn't it?