HILLARY A HIT AT ISRAEL BONDS DINNER
Shouts of “We love you!” greeted Senator Hillary Clinton, keynote speaker at the September 18 National Labor Division State of Israel Bonds dinner honoring Stuart Appelbaum, president, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW. “I’m told more [Israel bonds] money was raised tonight than at any other labor event for Israel,” Clinton informed the crowd at the Grand Hyatt New York. Behind her were two oversize $15 million check mockups representing the checks presented by New York City Comptroller William Thompson Jr.(who said, “New York City is a friend of labor and a friend of Israel”), and a $15 million check presented by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who asserted, “This was a safe investment in a very difficult and turbulent time.” Touting America’s and Israel’s “shared values… commitment to the rule of law and freedom of expression,” Clinton spoke of “the danger posed by Iran… [the] reasons to take the threat of Iran’s ambition to ‘have Israel wiped off the map’ seriously.” He added, “We cannot and we must not let Iran build nuclear weapons. We stand with Israel.” On the program were State of Israel Bonds President and CEO Joshua Matza, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner and Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. In his invocation, Sullivan said, “May Israel be blessed with perseverance and peace.”
Turning to Clinton, aglow in an electric-blue jacket, honoree Appelbaum declared, “I was at your wedding years ago, and today I feel as if you were at my bar mitzvah. Your grandfather sold bonds for Israel, and my uncle was the first Jew to go to Holy Cross.” Basking in the standing ovation, Appelbaum thanked friends, family, “brothers and sisters,” and union affiliate groups in the ballroom. Then, in a biblical turn, he cited Deuteronomy: “Justice, justice shalt thou pursue,” explaining that it was the only time in the Bible that a single word was repeated more than once to emphasize its import. Apropos, Appelbaum reported that he had been down to the Tyson plant in Shelbyville, Tenn., which employs 1,000 people, many of whom are Muslims from Somalia. “I was there to celebrate the union’s negotiating for a paid holiday for Adilfitri, which marks the end of Ramadan.” Appelbaum’s long list of nakhas-shepping plaudits (his 92-year old aunt, Betty, flew in for the simkha) includes president of the Jewish Labor Committee, chief house counsel of the Democratic National Committee and elected delegate to the 2008, 2004, 2000 and 1996 Democratic National Conventions.
Among the evening’s 375 attendees were the Forward Association’s executive director, Samuel Norich, the American Federation of Teachers President, Randi Weingarten; State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former public advocate Mark Green with walker. Green was recovering from a knee-replacement operation that he attributed to “tennis.” By evening’s end, $40 million in bonds was raised.
PRINCESS YASMIN AGA KHAN HOSTS RITA HAYWORTH ALZHEIMER’S RECEPTION
“No matter what is going on, there’s no reason to go meshuge about your brokerage account funds with the companies you deal with — even if the brokerage company tanks,” Alexandra Lebenthal assured me between photo flashes and champagne sips at the September 17 cocktail reception hyping the 2008 Alzheimer’s Association Rita Hayworth Gala. Lebenthal, founder, president and CEO of Lebenthal & Co., was one of the high-profile guests at the kickoff party for the forthcoming Silver Celebration of the Gala, which will honor philanthropist Lily Safra and Hearst Corporation CEO Frank Bennack Jr. Princess Yasmin Aga Khan founded the Rita Hayworth Alzheimer’s Association 25 years ago in memory of her mother, who developed Alzheimer’s in her 50s. To date, the association has raised more than $50 million for research and support programs.
Hosted by fashion designer Naeem Khan and his wife, Ranjana, at the couple’s spectacular loft-cum-residence, the guest crush included Sommers Farkas; Deborah Grubman; John and Margo Catsimatidis; Ann Hearst and her husband, Jay McInerney; Stephen and Louise Kornfeld, and Barbara Tober.
MUST-SEE FILM “THE RAPE OF EUROPA’” NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD
Exactly a year ago — in my September 28, 2007, column — I reviewed the film “The Rape of Europa.” Based on the eponymous book by Lynn Nicholas, the film chronicles the race against the Nazi-programmed theft and destruction of Europe’s museums and Jewish-owned treasurers. At the heart of this documentary is the group known as The Monuments Men, which secured 100 towns against damage and looting. Mostly American art historians and museum curators who were drafted into military service, they miraculously managed to protect monuments and recover millions of pieces of displaced art — including five Gustav Klimt masterpieces stolen from a Viennese Jew, one of which was subsequently sold to *Ronald Lauder for a record $135 million. A couple of weeks ago, I managed to chat with two of the three still living Monuments Men.
Bernard Taper, who was born in 1918 in London and came to Los Angeles in 1929, told me, “My mother was from Kielce, Poland, my father from Romania.” He was drafted into the U.S. Army, and “at the end of three years, I was never shot at nor fired a shot. That’s a definition of ‘a good war,’” he joshed. Taper described being sent to Berkeley, Calif., by the Army to join a dozen officers in Chinese-language class. “After six months training, they told us we were being sent to China as liaisons with Chiank Kai-Shek. In the army’s wisdom, in the autumn of 1945, our unit was sent to Germany!” Taper, an intelligence officer, interrogated, among others, Albert Speer, Kajetan Muhlmann, Karl Haberstock and Walter Hofer. Taper and his colleagues found Hermann Göring’s collection at Berchtesgaden. Among his major assignments to track down stolen art was the missing “Raphael’S Portrait of a Young Man,” stolen from the Czartoryski Collection in Kraków. “The Raphael was never found and remains missing today,” he lamented. Taper’s post-Army life includes a distinguished career as journalist, author and professor, and as a writer for The New Yorker.
Kenneth Lindsay, who was born in 1919 and had been a sergeant in the U.S. Army Signal Intelligence in the monuments, fine arts and archive divisions, described his convoluted route that finally landed him in Germany at the Wiesbaden Collection Point.
Hesitatingly, he mentioned a stint as a cryptographer decoding American messages. One such message read “on D-Day+1.”
Among his memorable recollections was the uncrating of the ancient bust of Queen Nefertiti of Egypt, which had been evacuated for safekeeping from the Berlin museums toward the end of the war. “Within an instant, every man in there fell hopelessly in love with her [beautiful] face,” he said. After the war, Lindsay became a professor of art history at Williams College and chair of the art history department at Harpur College of Arts and Sciences, Binghamton University.
If you weren’t able to see the film during its run in theaters, you can now own it on DVD and appreciate its remarkable subtext: “Art is what makes us human.”