Jews Bid Farewell to Bloomberg, With Powdered Sugar on their Lips

Mayor’s Last Hanukkah Party Was Subdued but Wistful

Last Candle: Outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg lights the menorah at his administration’s last Hanukkah party.
flickr/nycmayorsoffice
Last Candle: Outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg lights the menorah at his administration’s last Hanukkah party.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published December 04, 2013.
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And on the sixth night of Hanukkah, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the Jews all the jelly donuts they could handle.

Waiters bore the ponderous mounds of donuts into the event hall at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, where 500 of the mayor’s guests were celebrating the last official Hanukkah party of the Bloomberg administration. It was a farewell party for a constituency that counted the departing mayor as one of its own — even if Bloomberg himself was a two-times-a-year kind of Jew, at most.

The mayor attended to the lighting of the silver menorah and then slipped quickly out a side door. A dense crowd hung by the corner where he was last seen, apparently hoping for an encore.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Rabbi Bob Kaplan, a senior official with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. “We’re all feeling it.”

As the standard-issue Jewish communal function klezmer soundtrack played in the background, Jewish officials and volunteers spoke about what the transition would mean for them. “For 12 years you know who to speak to, what to speak to them about,” Kaplan said. “[You know] the weave of the fabric. We’ve got a new fabric coming in.”

Despite the emotions and the donuts, the evening felt like an afterthought. There’s a nice view of the river from the windows of the museum’s event space, but on a dark winter night it feels sad and over-lit. The crowd, for its part, was full of Jews but light on machers. Jewish boldface names who can be relied on to pop in whenever Jewish money and flashbulbs gather didn’t show. No Malcolm Hoenlein from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. No Congressman Jerry Nadler or Senator Chuck Schumer.

For those best attuned to the flow of Jewish power, the sixth night Hanukkah action may simply have been elsewhere. Uptown at the Hilton, at the very same moment that Bloomberg’s guests were milling aimlessly, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein was being honored by UJA-Federation of New York at the group’s annual Wall Street dinner.

James S. Tisch, the Loews CEO and past president of the UJA-Federation of New York, was at the Blankfein event, as was Jerry Levin, another UJA past president. Even Dan Doctoroff, Bloomberg’s former deputy mayor and the current CEO of Bloomberg L.P., chose Blankfein, as did New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Some politicians stuck with the mayor: New York State Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, a broad-shouldered Russian-speaking Democrat from South Brooklyn, and fellow Assemblyman David Weprin, a former City Council member from Queens who may have Albany’s best mustache, both showed. Notably absent was former Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty CEO William Rapfogel, who was likely hiding under a rock in Seward Park.


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