“Nice to know that [in Israel] we are not alone,” said Merav Mandelbaum, chairman of the board of directors of Reuth Israel at the December 12 Reuth fundraiser, which was held at Sotheby’s in Manhattan. The event was co-chaired by Reuth board members Mel Atlas and Jill Kaufman. Following a private viewing of the exhibit “Israeli and International Art” and a splendid buffet, the 250 guests were visibly moved by speeches from eight 16-year-old young women — all from day schools — who participated in the Reuth internship program by helping care for the elderly and chronically ill patients at Reuth’s Medical Center in Tel Aviv. “I found a second home,” reported one of the interns, adding, “ I returned to spend additional time with patients…. I always wanted to be a doctor.” Mandelbaum amplified: “You have to be a ray of light to them. Seventy percent of the patients do not go home. We have 25 children who can only live in the hospital…. One patient woke up after 23 years! The value of life is very important.” In a video clip, patients — some of whom have spent decades in the hospital — were shown enjoying live chamber music performances.
According to its literature, Reuth — which was started in 1937 — “helped prepare the ground for the State of Israel [first] by supporting the community with hot meals, then by serving thousands of Holocaust survivors and immigrants.” When Israel was born in 1948, Reuth was already a veteran organization, continuing to support those in need while maintaining its loyalty to Holocaust survivors. Reuth Medical Center, founded in 1961 with 25 beds for geriatric patients, is now a 350-bed, state-of-the-art rehabilitation and chronic-care facility — the largest of is kind in the Tel Aviv area. Its patients include soldiers and victims of terror. It offers patients the latest techniques in chronic-pain management, including such quality-of-life programs as music, drama, animal and gardening therapies. It has also started the first outpatient eating-disorder clinic, the Agam Center for Eating Disorders. Jennifer Roth, senior vice-president of fine arts at Sotheby’s, conducted the live “Auction Wish List” for a ventilation machine, pediatric wheelchair and cost of a weekly music therapist for young patients.
“Cooking is an extraordinary profession — one cannot be a chef if one is not curious [about] flavors, products and the way people live,” said Alain Ducasse, Trophee des Arts award honoree at the French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF) December 9 Trophee Des Arts Gala, which was held at 583 Park Avenue. “One must sincerely want to get to know and understand them…. Like my peers, we are all as much ambassadors as we are explorers,” Ducasse said. Ducasse, as well as chef Daniel Bouloud (who came to applaud his culinary compatriot), are both showcased in The New York Times’s 2003 “Jewish Cookbook,” which includes an introduction by Mimi Sheraton. Ducasse kvellers included chef/restaurateurs Sirio Maccioni, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Ariane Daguin. Award presenter Stanley Tucci (with whom I revisited our 2001 chat at a screening of “Conspiracy,” in which he portrayed Adolf Eichmann) was accompanied by Emmy-winning actress Patricia Clarkson. FIAF president Maria-Monique Steckel paid tribute to last year’s honoree, FIAF chairman emeritus Lorenzo Weisman. She noted the presence of Francois Delattre, France’s ambassador to the United States; Charles Rivkind, U.S. ambassador to France, and Philippe Lalliot, consul general of France in New York (who on December 21 hosted his third Hanukkah reception at the French consulate).
Upon receiving FIAF’s Pilier d’Or award, Paul Desmarais, Jr., chairman and co-CEO of Montreal-based Power Corporation of Canada — and FIAF’s first Canadian honoree — said, “We are judged by what we do for our family [and] what we give back to society.” Among the long list of prominent FIAF patrons and benefactors: Elaine & James Wolfensohn (Wolfensohn Family Foundation), Michele Gerber Klein, David de Rothschild, Erich de Rothschild, Robert de Rothschild and Marie-Josee & Henry Kravis.
“This is a special moment for us — Jews and non-Jews, French and American — a moment in the year when we gather together in order to celebrate the light of Hanukkah,” Philippe Lalliot, France’s consul general, told the guests assembled at New York City’s French consulate. “Those of you who were here last year at Hanukkah may remember [my comments] about the magnificent [Gobelin] tapestry on my right, showing Mordecai’s triumph over Haman’s plot to destroy the Jewish people in the story of Purim. A war story that took place more than 21 centuries ago, it parallels the story of the Maccabees’ victory over the Syrians, who wanted to wipe out Judaism and Hellenize the entire kingdom. Tonight, we are lighting the second candle of the hanukiah, which not only symbolizes the menorah of the Jerusalem Temple, but also, I believe, is a beautiful metaphor for light. It is not just a candle illuminating the dark nights of December, but [it represents] the knowledge that enlightens ignorance…. I am convinced that now, more than ever, we are in need of such wisdom to guide us in this world.”
Rabbi Levy Dijan and the consul general spoke of the significance of and imperative to “transmit light.” Lalliot said, “I’d like to recall [what was] a moment of light we all experienced with great relief — the liberation of Gilad Shalit, a young Israeli and French citizen, after more than five years of captivity. It was a moment of joy we all — French, Americans and Israelis — shared together, and which proved there is still light shining in the darkness.”
“Together, we are still writing the history we have been sharing, so we may prepare a better future for our children,” said Lalliot. He stressed the need “to continue [defending] our cultures’ common values: freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, democracy and the rule of law…. The Arab Springs have shown us that all people aspire to freedom…. We must continue fighting against any form of intolerance and racism, beginning with anti-Semitism.” Reflecting on “the ties of friendship between France and the Jewish community” that “go a long way back,” Lalliot recalled last June’s visit by Alain Juppe, the minister of foreign affairs, who met “with the heads of Jewish organizations at the consulate in order to discuss the major international issues at stake, mainly those concerning the Near- and Middle-East…. a dialogue between French authorities and the Jewish community that continues here at the consulate.” Lalliot stated: “I will always remain open to your questions and determined to listen and try to answer them.” He thanked Harriet Mandel (Global Roundtables), who helped organize the celebration, which concluded with a performance by the SAR Academy choir and the consul general wishing all a chag hanukkah sameach (joyous fete).