Dershowitz Sounds Off

By Masha Leon

Published November 29, 2007, issue of November 30, 2007.
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“I’ve played Mexican bandits, Italian Mafiosi, a Greek jewel thief and finally ended up as on old Jew,” Eli Wallach joshed. He and his wife, Anne Jackson, were award presenters to film legend Patricia Neal at the November 1 Hooray for Hollywood gala benefiting the Auditory Oral School of New York. “Pat’s a piece of work,” writer Bud Schulberg said. “Fifty years ago, she told me my script for ‘A Face in the Crowd’ was overwritten. That’s always music to a writer’s ears…. [Film director Elia] ‘Gadge’ Kazan called me and said, ‘All the stuff [you] took out… Pat can handle it.’” Neal, whose raspy voice has not changed since her stellar performances in “The Fountainhead” and “Hud,” accepted the award with grace and few words. Also honored at the event, which was held at Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios, were the Count and Countess Alexandre de Lesseps. A pioneer in micro-financing in developing countries, the count married American [Micmac tribe] Indian Luann, a TV host and model, three weeks after meeting her on the ski slopes in Switzerland. The count is the great-great grandson of Ferdinand de Lesseps, who designed and supervised the building of the Suez Canal, began the Panama Canal and presented the Statue of Liberty to the United States on behalf of France. Honored at the United Nations in 2004 with the Fulbright Humanitarian Award, the hearing-impaired count touted the need to aid the deaf worldwide.

The Auditory Oral School of New York provides services for hard-of-hearing and profoundly deaf preschoolers and their families throughout all the five boroughs. One of its representatives noted that the school “mainstreams 98% of its children into kindergarten” and that “sometimes, autistic children diagnosed as deaf have a treatable hearing disability.” It was also noted that newborns are now tested before leaving the hospital so that the disability can be treated early.

“This is a dream come true,” said event chair David Steiner, landlord of the 20-acre former Brooklyn Navy Yard that he is transforming into a state-of-the-art movie back lot to rival Los Angeles’s Hollywood. “Open almost three years, sometimes we have 1,000 people working here. These are the best stages east of Hollywood,” he said. Such mega-hits as “Spider-Man 3” and “Inside Man” have used the Brooklyn soundstages.


“Welcome to one of my favorite shiksas,” Tovah Feldshuh said to Anne Meara, a presenter at the October 28 American Friends of Rabin Medical Center dinner at Cipriani Wall Street. The dinner honored Wallach and Jackson. “Stop calling me a shiksa!” Meara snapped back. “Don’t you accept converts? Give me a break!” Feldshuh was the mistress of ceremonies standing in for Larry King, who had flown to the West Coast to interview people regarding the fires in Southern California. When Wallach accepted his award, he made mention of Ingrid Bergman, probably in reference to and comparison with Feldshuh’s recent portrayal of Golda Meir (Bergman played Meir in the 1982 docudrama “A Woman Called Golda”) in “Golda’s Balcony.” He said that “she captured the beautiful soul of that woman.”

Keynote speaker Alan Dershowitz declared, “No other country [besides Israel] can brag of a higher commitment to human rights,” as he proclaimed the need for support for Israel from both of America’s parties. “I’ve seen protesters with signs [reading] ‘Gays for Palestine.’ Do you know what gays in Palestine do? They seek asylum in Israel! Per capita, Israel exports more lifesaving technology to the world than any other country. [It has] the highest ratio of medical personnel to the population… it builds bomb shelters and treatment centers [and] wants to minimize the death of civilians on both sides.” Dershowitz took on Jimmy Carter’s book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” which he called “drivel, the anti-Israel propaganda on American campuses,” and noted that “Bishop [Desmond] Tu-Tu has not said a single word about the genocide in Sudan.… On 50% of U.S. campuses today, not one academic is prepared to stand up for the Barak-Clinton plan. Even at universities like Columbia… no faculty member would introduce me.”

The dinner also honored Frederick Frank, vice chairman of Lehman Brothers, who flew in from Utah and is descended from one of the first Jewish families to settle the West. He is a past director of the Salk Institute, currently a member of the National Center for Genome Resources’ board of governors and chairman of the board of The Irvington Institute for Immunological Research.

Following a video presentation profiling Tom Schechter — a young Israeli army soldier treated for a shrapnel head wound — Nava Barak, president of Israel Friends of Rabin Medical Center at Petah Tikvah, addressed the need for a state-of-the art trauma center. “This hospital is our lifeline,” Barak said. During its “Save-a-Life Tonight: Emergency Need Appeal,” the auctioned items included medical supplies and equipment, operating-room lights and X-ray units.


For a change of pace, I’ll pass on transmitting the anecdotes told at the Israel Cancer Research Fund’s annual Tower of Hope dinner, “A Celebration of Life,” by the fund’s chairman, Dr. Yashar Hirshaut, and its master of ceremonies, criminal lawyer Benjamin Brafman. Instead, I would like to showcase Alexander Swistel, this year’s recipient of the ICRF’s Dr. Daniel G. Miller Excellence in Medicine Award. Swistel received the award at the November 5 dinner, held at the New York Hilton. Chief of breast surgery at Weill Cornell Breast Center and associate attending surgeon at New York-Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center, Swistel has pioneered many of the newest advances in breast cancer treatment. His innovations and skill have saved women’s lives while making procedures more humane and cosmetically comforting. He was among the first physicians in New York to perform a sentinel lymph node biopsy, which eliminates the need to surgically remove 20 to 30 lymph nodes. Swistel developed the skin-sparing mastectomy, which, combined with immediate reconstruction, provides improved cosmetic results without the danger of not the patient not surviving. And he is a pioneer of oncoplastic surgery in which a lumpectomy is performed at the same time as reduction surgery for large-breasted women.

Another thought about the ICRF: One can assume that tens of thousands of men and women worldwide — including those who disdain Israel — may owe their lives and health to ICRF grant recipients whose research has led to the development of Velcade, a drug used to treat multiple myeloma; Gleevec, the first drug to directly target cancer cells, and Doxil, the first drug encapsulated in a lipsome (microscopic fat bubble) for direct delivery to a tumor. ICRF grant recipients also discovered the p53 Gene identified as a tumor suppressor in a majority of human cancers; DNA Methylation, a molecular process that turns genes on and off; the RAD51 Gene, whose mutation increases the risk of breast cancer in women with the BRACA2 gene mutation, and a novel bone marrow transplant technique that greatly expands the donor pool for leukemia treatment. Promotions for tourism might also include a blurb stating that Israel is not only the land of “milk and honey” but also the land of hope for better health.

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