Religious Bridge Builders

On The Go

All Smiles: Archbishop Celestino Migliore and Georgette Bennett.
All Smiles: Archbishop Celestino Migliore and Georgette Bennett.

By Masha Leon

Published June 30, 2010, issue of July 09, 2010.
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Tanenbaum Honors Papal Nuncio and Other Religious Bridge Builders

While welcoming the guests to the June 17 Mark H. Tanenbaum Award Ceremony & Memorial Lecture, held at the Pierre, founder and president Georgette Bennett articulated the Tanenbaum Foundation’s mission: “… to confront and overcome the horrors [perpetrated] in the name of religion.” In a lighter vein, recipient of the Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum Award for the Advancement of Interreligious Understanding, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, offered this historic tidbit: “It was customary for nearly 2,000 years for the chief rabbi of Rome to present the pope with an envelope, which the pope returned unopened.” There came a new pope and new rabbi, and “when the new rabbi presented the envelope to the new pope, he opened it, read the note inside and returned it to the rabbi. The slip inside was the bill for the Last Supper.”

The archbishop’s biographical notes in the journal include the following observation regarding the tensions among Israelis and Palestinians: “Only with a just and lasting peace — not imposed, but secured through negotiation and reasonable compromise — will the legitimate aspirations of all the people of the Holy Land be fulfilled.” In his presentation speech, Howard Milstein, chairman and president and CEO of New York Private Bank and a Tanenbaum founder, informed, “We did financing of St. Patrick’s and every Catholic Parish.” During dinner, I asked Milstein if he is familiar with the Forward. “Did you know Harold Ostroff?” he replied. “Of course!” Milstein said. “He was he general manager of the Jewish Forward…. In fact during the ’80s he edited my column …. And he was very involved with the Amalgamated Cooperative Housing.” Milstein added, smiling: “We built the Amalgamated Houses together in the Bronx. Harold and I were good friends.”

“I am a Druze by birth,” said Tanenbaum Corporate Bridge-Builder Award recipient Maz Zouhairi, president and CEO of Lalique, Daum and Haviland. “Home was a mixed community of Christians, Muslims and Druze…. I was raised by parents who believed in tolerance [that] I was not part of a minority. I went to A Catholic school [where] we celebrated all Jewish holidays. My house was next to the only synagogue still standing in Beirut…. My mother told me it was a house of prayer for the Jewish people… home for the small diminishing Jewish community…. We now live side by side with mutual respect.”

Tanenbaum’s executive vice president and CEO, Joyce Dubensky, lashed out at a recent online game: “‘Beat the Jew’… The loser goes to the incinerator.’ [It] involved some 40 students.” She touted the critical impact OF Tanenbaum’s programs, “which teach that being different is normal,” and informed, “Tanenbaum supports the mosque at Ground Zero.”

The event also honored Gwen Ifill, Washington Week’s managing editor, with the Tanenbaum Bridge- Builder Award, which was presented to her by her boss, Les Crystal, president of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. Citing her provenance, “My father was a preacher who raised a journalist, a diplomat, an economist and another preacher,” Ifill declared, “I choose to participate, to change the world at large… and at home. “

Israel Proclaimed “A Blessing to All People” at Israel Cancer Research Fund Event

“Israel is a blessing to all people, to all nations,” said Rabbi Allan Blaine of Temple Beth-El of Belle Harbor, N.Y., in his invocation at the Israel Cancer Research Fund’s June 16 Women of Action Evening, held at Asia House. “ICRF’s funding has led to three major cancer-treating drugs — Gleevec, Doxil and Velcade.” ICRF Chairman Dr. Yashar Hirshaut celebrated the exemplary achievement of two remarkable women: Elaine Hochberg, Forest Laboratories’ corporate senior vice president and chief commercial officer (and herself a cancer survivor), “who helps make the right choices in medications for treatment,” and Anne Moore, professor of medicine and medical director at the Breast Oncology Program at Weill Cornell Medical College, “who is determined to do everything for her patients so they will be well.” Invoking ICRF-funded Israel’s first winners of the Nobel Prize in science — professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover — Hirshaut recalled that in 1975, Congress refused any funding for foreign cancer research. “Talented people in Israel were left in midresearch,” she said. “We created an institution [ICRF] that gave funds for research. We’ve helped support almost every major cancer scientist in Israel.”

“I am a representative of scientists in Israel supported by ICRF,” said keynote guest speaker Varda Rotter, director of the FAMRI Center of Excellence and chairperson of the Department of Molecular Cell Biology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Rehovoth, Israel. “You trusted me as a young scientist who left MIT to go to Israel without a penny in my pocket.” Grateful for ICRF’s funding, Rotter, who is also director of Weizmann’s Women’s Health Center and a professor in its Department of Cell Biology, described in great detail the research in the p53 gene and the loss of the gene’s normal function, which leads to cancer. Currently, Moore is focusing on “survivorship,” a study of the issues facing women who have completed treatment.

Hirshaut concluded his address in an upbeat mode: “Each day, new treatments give us hope and promise…. Each of us has very special talents. If we stand united, we will win.”

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