Advocate for War Victims Runs Low on Money; Charity's Survival Threatened by Losses in Madoff Scandal

Article excerpt


Among the casualties of Bernard Madoff's purported Ponzi scheme is a small charity with a big reputation for helping civilians caught in the crossfire of conflict.

The Campaign for Innocent Victims In Conflict (CIVIC) has had to lay off one of its four employees and give up its office, and will likely have to scale back its work. The group's founder, Marla Ruzicka, was killed in 2005 while helping victims in Iraq.

We're looking at our strategic plan and just basically red-lining things, said Sarah Holewinski, CIVIC's executive director. What it means to us is there are war victims who would not get the help we ensured.

The group lost a $50,000 grant from the JEHT Foundation, a national philanthropic organization that closed this month after losing its money. The foundation's finances had been managed by Mr. Madoff, who stands accused of perpetrating a decades-long $50 billion fraud.

A federal judge on Tuesday in New York denied a prosecution request that Mr. Madoff have his bond revoked, allowing the accused to remain under house arrest while he awaits trial.

A Ponzi scheme involves paying early investors artificially high returns with funds collected from later investors until the money runs out and the scheme collapses.

The money lost by CIVIC is far less than many of the dozens of other charities affected by the Madoff scandal. Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, lost $90 million investing with Mr. Madoff. The Jewish charity's endowment still stands at more than $400 million, though its leadership has made an urgent call for donations.

But the case of CIVIC illustrates how devastating the Madoff case has been for smaller charities. …