Tribute To An Italian Hero

By Masha Leon

Published November 16, 2007, issue of November 16, 2007.
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NYC DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF INTELLIGENCE DAVID COHEN HONORED WITH ADL’S FIRST PALATUCCI LEADERSHIP AWARD

“He disregarded Mussolini’s orders to gather Jews for concentration camps, forged visas and documents, destroyed files… and sent Jews to neighboring towns to live among the Italians as brothers,” said Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, about Giovanni Palatucci, the Italian police chief of Fiume whose rescue efforts landed him in Dachau. There, he died in 1945, a few months before his 36th birthday. To honor his memory, the ADL established the Giovanni Palatucci Courageous Leadership Award, which was presented to David Cohen, the New York City Police Department’s deputy commissioner of intelligence, at the October 9 ADL luncheon, held at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. “It’s possible that Palatucci saved as many as 5,000 Jews,” said Cohen, who was introduced by NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. “There are now 25,000 to 35,000 Palatucci survivors [who] would have been lost to us if not for him.” Cohen touted the NYPD’s “police centers in locations around the world. No other country has this kind of presence; [it’s] as good as the best of the CIA. Two weeks ago, 100 heads of state came to the U.N. without incident. The department treated the [recent] antisemitic [swastika graffiti] in a Brooklyn neighborhood as seriously as [it did] protecting those 100 heads of state.”

Alluding to the October 1982 massacre 25 years ago in front of Rome’s main synagogue, Clemente Mastella, minister of justice of the Republic of Italy (Il ministro della Giustizia), noted, “October 9 is a day of memory in Italy [when] the sun stopped shining for Stefano, who had gone to the synagogue to celebrate Shemini Atzeret — killed by a Palestinian terrorist.” With the help of a translator, Mastella described his visit to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem: “Palatucci set an example… I feel comfort and admiration for all [the 240 Righteous Among the Nations] Italians who sacrificed their lives to help Italian Jews. Italians must never forget the Shoah. Antisemitism lurks in corners, always ready to raise its ugly head. When I was voted in, I canceled a veto that” — as I gather from the translator’s frazzled attempt to keep up with the minister’s fast-forward Italian —“would have eliminated the Shoah as a national day of remembrance.” Another speaker, Italy’s national police chief (capo della polizia) Antonio Manganelli, recalled: “Palatucci was a cop like me.… His family lived a 100 yards from where we lived.”

In order to avoid repeats of such incidents as the October 1982 attack on Rome’s main synagogue, Foxman informed: In November, “two officers from Italy’s International Counterterrorism Division and SWAT team will attend a counter-terrorism seminar organized by the ADL in Israel.” The luncheon was emceed by Fox 5 News co-anchor Rosanna Scotto, and guests included George Tenant, former CIA chief; Alessandro Ruben, chairman of ADL in Italy; Sergey Garmonin, consul general of the Russian Federation; Ambassador Gabor Brodi, Hungary’s permanent representative to the United Nations, and Francesco Maria Talo, Italy’s consul general in New York.


BEDOUIN STUDENTS EXCEL AT BEN-GURION UNIVERSITY OF THE NEGEV

“When you educate a Bedouin man, you have an educated man. When you educate a Bedouin woman, you change the community,” said Robert Arnow, chairman emeritus of the board of governors of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Arnow was honored at the October 24 BGU dinner at the Grand Hyatt. The event also celebrated the 10th anniversary of BGU’s Robert H. Arnow Center for Bedouin Studies and Development, where half of the 500 students are women. It now boasts its first female Bedouin physician, Dr. Rania Okby Abed El Hady, and its first female doctoral student, Sarab Abu-Rabia Queder, who is now doing postgraduate studies at Oxford University. Jamal Alkirnawi, a Bedouin BGU graduate, stressed the cultural challenge of attending a Western-style university. “We need to remember that for Bedouins, particularly female students, it is not the norm to leave home to study,” he said. In 2002, Alkirnawi participated in the Students March of the Living mission to Poland. “I felt it was important for me to see, learn and to pass on the important lessons from this experience,” he said. Dr. Rivka Carmi, president of BGU (and the only female president of any Israeli university), must have had these three BGU graduates in mind when she stated: “We can’t fix the world all at once. We do it one day at a time, one individual at a time.”

When Arnow was honored at BGU’s 1998 dinner, he decried the state of the Negev’s Bedouins, “the poorest of the poor who represent 25% of the Negev population.” He touted the need for the center (which now bears his name) before guests that included Lord George Weidenfeld of Chelsea, Henry and Nancy Kissinger, Barbara Walters, Midge and Norman Podhoretz, and A.M. Rosenthal. This time, the more * haimish * guest list included the honoree’s wife, Joan; his granddaughters, Chloe and Talia, and journalist Ruth Gruber, a longtime friend. Also in attendance were several hundred “bricks and mortar” BGU supporters and Arnow fans who, according to Carmi, “are imbued with… a display of tikkun olam — the fundamental Jewish precept of mending the world.”


TWO CLINTON BIRTHDAYS

Hillary Clinton’s 60th birthday party, held recently at the Beacon Theatre, reportedly raised $1.5 million, with ticket prices ranging from $250 to $2,300. ’Twas a far financial cry from husband Bill Clinton’s August 1996 triple-header daylong Sheraton Hotel/Radio City Music Hall/Waldorf-Astoria ($10,000-$15,000 a plate) 50th birthday cavalcade, which raised $10 million.

At Radio City Music Hall — where fans paid anywhere from $250 to $500 a ticket — the president told his fans, “I may not be the best man Hillary has ever known, but I sure have loved her.” **Nathan Lane ** sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” jokingly adding, “and Hakuna Matata is a Yiddish expression meaning, ‘You are now 50 and can inhale.’” With the event already on a Yiddish roll, emcee Whoopi Goldberg opened with, “I’m farklempt!” Following a roster of stars and tributes, Mrs. Clinton mounted the stage to thank everybody (“Bill is the best man I’ve ever known”). Suddenly she was interrupted by an explosion of horns, whistles and shouts of “Shame! Shame!” The president rose to the shouters’ defense: “Be nice to them! That’s what’s wonderful about America; nobody can shut you up. Mother taught me never to resent anyone else’s success and never to lift yourself up by putting someone else down.… The purpose of politics is to enable more kids to live their dreams, like I have lived mine.” Before turning over the mike to Mrs. Clinton, he reflected on the many men he had met and [now] missed, particularly Yitzhak Rabin. At the Sheraton, where reception tickets were pegged at $1,500 and the vanilla cake in the shape of an American flag cost $14,000, I asked pink-suited Mrs. Clinton if she had had a chance to read “Escape to the Futures,” written by Chicago Mercantile Exchange Chairman Leo Melamed. She hesitated. “You’re on pages 437-444, and I’m on page 29.” She smiled and said: “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Chatting with the president, I mentioned that Milton Shapiro, president of the Jewish National Fund, told me the prior week that a grove of trees had been planted in Israel in memory of his mother, Virginia. His teary reaction was short-circuited by Frank Lautenberg, who was behind me. Putting his right arm across my left shoulder and his left across my right shoulder, and resting his full weight on my 5-foot-2-inch frame in order to shake hands with the New Jersey senator, President Clinton left me with a souvenir






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