The Rabbi That Roared

By Gabrielle Birkner

Published February 04, 2009, issue of February 13, 2009.

What do you get the man who has everything for his 50th birthday?

NAMESAKE: Rabbi Marc meets Rabbi Marc.
NAMESAKE: Rabbi Marc meets Rabbi Marc.

A 400-pound endangered Asian lion, of course.

At least that’s what Rabbi Marc Schneier, the founding rabbi of two New York-area synagogues, got from his wife, Tobi Rubinstein-Schneier. The Schneiers were the guests of honor at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo on January 27, when the zoo’s resident male lion was renamed “Rabbi Marc” — in exchange for a monetary donation that will help cover the lion’s care.

Schneier, however, has no plans of bringing his namesake to either of his two homes, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Westhampton Beach, N.Y. Rabbi Marc will remain alongside three lionesses in his current habitat, where the zoo staff anticipates he will sire cubs. Rubinstein-Schneier, who wore a leopard-print Michael Kors dress to the naming ceremony, said she hopes that the birth of Rabbi Marc’s cubs will correspond with her stepson’s bar mitzvah and her daughter’s Sweet 16 so that more members of the animal kingdom can be named in the family’s honor.

The founder and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Schneier was in Israel in January for the plenary assembly of the World Jewish Congress.

During the birthday celebration, Rabbi Marc came into view “with a big roar, which is appropriate, because my husband is a force to be reckoned with — in a good way,” Rubinstein-Schneier said.

Also at the festivities was WJC President Ronald Lauder, who, Schneier said, became enamored with the zoo’s cheetah population. “Ronald wanted to know if a cheetah could be named after him,” Schneier said.

At press time, Lauder had not returned a call seeking comment.



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