“Mayor, schmayor! He’s coming!” joked New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn about Michael Bloomberg’s expected arrival, July 29, at the Joint Farewell Reception of UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. The event honored these departing Israeli diplomats: permanent representative to the United Nations Gabriela Shalev, consul general in New York Asaf Shariv, deputy permanent representative to the United Nations Daniel Carmon and deputy consul general in New York Benjamin Krasna. After touting New York City’s close ties with Israel, Quinn mused to the honored diplomats, “If the Giants had won last year, you [all] might have stayed another year.”
John Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation, and Michael Miller, JCRC-NY’s executive vice president and CEO, were kvelling at the standing-room-only turnout at UJA-Federation’s headquarters on one of New York’s hottest days — for what board chairwoman Alisa Doctoroff described as “not a goodbye, but l’hitraot [“See you later”]. Touted by UJA-Federation’s president, Jerry Levin, as “the greatest mayor ever in New York,” Bloomberg, not one to miss an opportunity, invited the departing diplomats — whom he labeled as the “Fab Four” (an homage to The Beatles, who took New York by storm in 1965, when they performed at Shea Stadium) — to “come back to New York and spend money. We need the sales tax revenue.”
Doctoroff lauded the four departing diplomats as “advocates of the Jewish people, [to whom] we are grateful for their service and intelligence.” JCRC-NY’s president, Janice Shorenstein, introduced Shalev as one who “represented the Jewish people… with poise and dignity… [earning the respect] of both friendly and unfriendly [United Nations] delegates.” She added, “[Imagine] had anyone told Gabriela’s grandparents, [whose] journey took them from Kiel to Theresienstadt, that one day she’d represent the State of Israel in the United States.”
Shalev responded: “I came to New York to represent you…. The Diaspora needs Israel, and Israel needs the Diaspora community just as much. The diverse Jewish communities of the United States have been essential pillars of support for us…. You have been amazing. The unity of the Jewish people in the United States is essential…. All of Israel is responsible for one another.”
Admitting to being “happy to be leaving the troubled waters of the U.N.,” Shalev said she looked forward to “returning to my tranquil life in Israel.” One of the speakers amplified that in Hebrew, “’tranquil’ translates as shalev.”
Introduced by Shorenstein as “Our day-to-day go-to guy,” Shariv joshed: “And you thought we were suffering at the U.N. Actually, we were partying.” Shariv then mused thoughtfully about what he will bring back to Israel from his American sojourn. “Thank you for teaching me,” he said. “I learned as much about Israel and the U.S. as about myself. Philanthropy is not well developed in Israel, [and] I hope to help implement it in Israel…. Thank you for making me a better Jew.”
Shariv closed with a story about a retired politician who for six months had been honored for his service at various venues, yet never commented about the accolades he received: “At the final adieu held at the Knesset, he was urged to say something! So finally, the politician said, ‘It wasn’t as good as you said, but not as bad as you think.’”
Among the 25 designers whose work was showcased at the July 24 Hampton Designer Showhouse gala preview cocktail party to benefit Southampton Hospital was South Africa-born Irwin Weiner, who admitted to being “a kosher kitchen design maven.” In addition to one of the rooms he designed and decorated for this show house in Sag Harbor, N.Y., that was built by Frank Bodenchak , his transformation of a barn in Bucks County, Pa., into an elegant home was showcased in the June issue of Architectural Digest.
A few days after the gala, I greeted Weiner at his New York office (on his door hung a mezuza) with, “You must be a Litvak.” Guilty. “My parents came to Cape Town from Lithuania; my father from Vaski, my mother from Rieteva,” he said. Though Weiner’s talents are wide-ranging, he takes special pride in his kosher kitchen solutions. “Pesach has always been a challenge,” he said. “Older customers are okay with just a milkhik (milk) and fleyshik (meat) kitchen. But the younger generation opts for an additional section. So many appliances, microwaves.” For one client, he designed under-counter pullout cabinets “for Pesach storage of chametz [products that cannot be consumed], which could be wheeled into the basement…. Most Orthodox clients are women. They run the show.”
Weiner, whose printed modus operandi philosophy states, “This space expresses my personality and humor, and your home should reflect yours, too,” believes that interiors should “relate to reality… not [be] necessarily trendy,” and should “include personal collections of photos and works of art.”
What about that interesting mezuza on the door? I asked. Weiner recounted that a woman for whom he’d worked brought him a mezuza from Jerusalem. “But it was only the cover, without the inner scroll,” he said. “I went to an Upper West Side Judaica store. I was about 10 feet from the store and stopped for a moment to think. Just then, a car swerved into the store! It was my mezuza moment.”
Returning to the Hampton gala, the 450 brightly clad guests moved through the house’s beach motif rooms, which included a wine room, a game room, a media room, six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, lots of porches and a magnificent stone pool. The gala beneficiary, Southampton Hospital, established in 1909, is the only major medical facility on eastern Long Island’s South Fork. The hospital offers emergency and specialty health care through its 16 satellite facilities.