A Delightful Duo

On The Go

At a Gala: Anne Jackson (left) and Betsy von Furstenberg
KAREN LEON
At a Gala: Anne Jackson (left) and Betsy von Furstenberg

By Masha Leon

Published April 21, 2010, issue of April 30, 2010.

Senator Schumer on the Bimah at Temple Emanu-El and on the Dais at St. Patrick’s

A few hours after hearing New York Senator Charles Schumer address the crowd at the April 11 Temple Emanu-El Holocaust Remembrance Day Gathering, there he was, on the dais at St. Patrick’s Cathedral! The providentially titled “Do Not Quench the Spirit” concert, in memory of Polish-born pope John Paul II, also served as a memorial for Poland’s president, Lech Kaczynski; his wife, and members of Poland’s leadership, all of whom died in the April 10 plane crash near Smolensk, Russia while en route to a memorial service for the 20,000 Polish military officers and intellectuals (10% of whom were Jews) executed in 1940 at Katyn (near Smolensk) by the Soviets. Among those remembering the pope and Poland’s president was news anchor and correspondent Rita Cosby, who read several poems by the pope. Also offering condolences and lauding “the many people of Polish descent in New York State” was Schumer, who said, “We pray for the Polish people and the Polish nation here and in Poland.” As he passed by me en route to a waiting car outside the cathedral, my offhand remark, “From Emanu-El to St. Patrick’s!” earned me a pat on the shoulder and Schumer’s retort: “Masha, that’s what it means to be a politician.”

I first met Cosby, an Emmy award-winning reporter, several years ago when she hosted a gala dinner aboard the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. She told the then 1,000-strong military guest assemblage about her father, Ryszard Kossobudzki — now known as Richard Cosby — who had organized a daring escape of Polish prisoners of war from a German POW camps. Her book, “Quiet Hero: Secrets From My Father’s Past” (Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster) will be launched May 18. “My father had been with the Armia Krajowa, or Home Army, Resistance Movement, also known as the AK Resistance and fought in the 1944 uprising against the Germans…. Last November, during my visit with the president and the first lady at Warsaw’s Presidential Palace, I learned that my father and [president] Kaczynski’s father had, at one time, been in the same Resistance unit!” In her note to me a few days later, she wrote, “I am giving a portion of my book’s proceeds to two great causes in Poland: to the upcoming Museum of the History of Polish Jews being built where the Warsaw Ghetto once stood, and for the [1944] Warsaw Rising Museum to help both gather oral histories from people who were among the righteous.”


Young and Old Remember, Weep and Sing at Temple Emanu-El Annual Gathering

At the April 11 “Zachor! Gedenk! Remember!” annual Gathering of Remembrance, held at Fifth Avenue’s Temple Emanu-El, participants included, in addition to Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren, Israel’s consul general in New York, Asaf Shariv; Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, and New York Senator Charles Schumer, who stressed: “We need to apply the lessons of the Holocaust — now!” Recalling Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the Capitol in March, Schumer told the audience: “Aside from the Israelis, I was the only Jew around the table! The others… [not understanding] the danger of Iran, were saying: ‘Slow down, we have plenty of time. No hurry, it may not come to anything.’” Schumer continued: “I said, let me relate history [to you]: The time is the 1930s, the [precursor] of the Holocaust… just like Iran… [Hitler] had laid out what he’d do, yet the world said he’d never do it. It was [also] the attitude of the Jewish community in the U.S. as well as the world…. Had we acted, the 6 million might not have happened…. The actions of Iran are frightening…. Perhaps,” he concluded his rant at Iran, “[these actions] will not come to pass.” Calmly, he walked off the bimah, proclaiming, “In America, in Israel, and around the world, “Am “Yisroel Chai!” A few hours later, I heard Schumer speak at another remembrance at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Shariv spoke of how he is “the link between our past and our future” — of his “[lucky] grandparents, devoted Zionists” who “ left Europe [but whose family] was left behind,” members of which “were taken from the “Stodin Ghetto, to a forest near Kostopol, a ‘Death March’ of 18 miles, and on August 2, 1942, shot… by Nazi murderers.” Shalev recalled: “My mother [was] sobbing for her parents…. [In Israel it was] the silent era when talking… about the Holocaust was [taboo]. It was unimaginable to grasp. [I was seen as a] ‘sheep to the slaughter’…. Not until the [1961] Eichmann trial was there a turning point. Here we are to give them names, the way they lived, the way they died. There can be no future for the Jewish people without remembering the Holocaust.”

One of the commemorations’ highlights was six survivors of ghettos, concentration camps, slave labor camps and death marches, who mounted the bimah surrounded by their children and grandchildren, each lighting a large memorial candle. Adding emotional heft to the event was Fifth Avenue Synagogue’s chief cantor ** Joseph Malovany** ’s wrenching rendition of the lament “El MoleH Rachamim” and the performance by Hazamir: The International Jewish High School Choir, led by its founder and director, Matthew Lazar. The commemoration concluded with everyone joining in the singing of the Partisan hymn “Zog Nit Keyn Mol,” which opens with, “Never say this is your last day….” and concludes with, “We are here!”

The commemoration was co-chaired by Rita Lerner and Ann Osterand included an address by David Marwell, director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Remarks were by Saul Kagan, executive vice president emeritus of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Another dramatic candle-lighting ceremony was held by 36 women survivors of the Holocaust, accompanied by 36 young people — many of them children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors who are active now members of a lot of young Jewish leadership-volunteering groups.


Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson: A Delightful Duo at Players Club’s Patricia Neal Event

In support of the Peccadillo Theater Company’s upcoming revival of Lillian Hellman’s “Another Part of the Forest,” the Peccadillo’s April 12 benefit, held at the Players Club, planned to showcase “An Evening With Patricia Neal.” The production is a rarely seen prequel to Hellman’s “The Little Foxes,” the 1946 Broadway production directed by Hellman, and starred a relatively young unknown Neal, who won the first-ever Tony Award for her performance. Unfortunately, Neal, who was to receive Peccadillo’s Legends of the American Theater Award, had suffered a serious fall and was unable to attend. In the tradition of “the show must go on,” the evening was revamped, and 200 of Neal’s friends, admirers and fellow actors reminisced and told “Patricia stories.” Most delightful was the Eli Wallach-Anne Jackson shtick. When the twosome came up to the mic, the 83-year-old Jackson put her hand on the 94-year-old Wallach — the villain in such films as “The Magnificent Seven” (1960) and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966) — and proclaimed: “This is mine!” Then Wallach asked her, “What was I going to say?” Jackson affectionately replied, “I don’t know, Sweetheart.” Wallach snapped back, “What does that mean?” and then smiled and, in full command, stated: “I performed with Pat Neal all over the world,” listing a roster of productions.

Among the evening’s raconteurs were Rick McKay, who made, among other films, “Broadway: The Golden Age,” and Betsy von Furstenberg, who said she dismissed her royal title and has been working “since I was 14.”

Artist Maria Cooper Janis (whose husband is pianist Byron Janis) told how she “reached out to Patricia” during a particularly troubling time in her life. She alluded to the “special friendship” her father, film star Gary Cooper, had with Neal during and after the making of “The Fountainhead,” based on the Ayn Rand novel. Neal, who originated the role of the mother in the Broadway production of “The Miracle Worker,” credited Helen Keller as the inspiration in her life. Actor Cliff Robertson (recently inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame) recalled: “When Pat had her stroke and no one knew the extent of her injury, the nurse who cared for her each day sang, ‘I Could Have Danced All Night.’ One day, Pat responded and that was the first step in her recovery.” The evening was filmed to be sent to her in California.



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