We prefer – we even assume – this trajectory, in which human character is not utterly set at birth, but expands toward some form of realization and even – given a strikingly bad set of character traits – conversion over time.

The story of one of this blog’s minor, persistent, characters – Yeshiva University benefactor Ira Rennert – represents an all too human reminder of the difference between literature and life. For as this multi-billionaire enters his 83rd year of life, as he winds down his tale, he simply persists in his awfulness.

And this is interesting. UD finds it interesting to contemplate such a man, with his Long Island residence so notorious that, when he was on trial for looting the retirement fund of one of his businesses (he was found guilty), his lawyer begged the judge not to allow the jurors to see photographs of it because it would “inflame” them; a man, who having been made to repay the retirement funds, is now suing his lawyers for that amount.

Whenever America’s obscenely rich behave obscenely, there you will find Rennert — flying his private helicopter illegally; polluting the world’s environment; cheating on his taxes, bankrolling illegal settlements.

Like Bernard Madoff’s right-hand man, Ezra Merkin, Ira Rennert is a very high-profile pious person. His name ornaments a business institute for Orthodox Jewish entrepreneurs; he was until recently head of New York’s most prominent synagogue. Ezra Merkin’s synagogue. All three men (along with comrade in whatever Zygi Wilf, after whom a Yeshiva campus is named) were/are majorly involved with/major donors to the extremely curiously run Yeshiva University.

But that, of course, is literary: religious hypocrisy.

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