Bernie Madoff took Ruth Alpern to be his lawfully wedded wife on the eve of a new decade—the Swinging Sixties, one of the most turbulent and radical eras in contemporary American history. But for Bernie the 1960s would be a time of growing success, little turbulence, and no radicalism. It would all be about making money, and whatever it took to make it.
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving 1959—just a few weeks after the Russians sent an unmanned rocket on mankind's first trip to the moon, and a few weeks before John F. Kennedy announced his run for the Democratic presidential nomination—21-year-old Bernie, a senior at Hofstra College, and 19-year-old Ruth, a sophomore at Queens College, were married at the Laurelton Jewish Center.
While it was a Conservative Judaism synagogue, Bernie and Ruth considered themselves "lox and bagel Jews"—neither was religious or observant.
It was a small, quietly elegant, traditional service with the two marrying under a chuppah, and with Bernie smashing a wine glass with the sole of his rented patent leather shoe that went with his rented tuxedo. Ruth wore a simple white wedding dress. There were no special vows. It was Ruth's idea, though, to serve the guests wine and champagne placed on a table in the synagogue's foyer before the ceremony. That night there was a wedding dinner—brisket and all the trimmings—at the Jewish Center.
"There were no special trappings," recalls Jane Kavanau, a ...