At Benefit, Dan Rather Suggests Floyd Abrams For High Court


By Masha Leon

Published July 15, 2005, issue of July 15, 2005.
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A newly retired Dan Rather, spouting Texan tales and maxims, served as the emcee at the ELEM: Youth in Distress in Israel benefit held June 1 at New York’s Jewish Museum. First Amedment lawyer Floyd Abrams, on a break from defending The New York Times’s Judith Miller, was, together with wife Efrat, among the evening’s honorees.

After an introduction by Ann Bialkin, president of ELEM/America, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman told the ELEM (an acronym for “Youth in Distress” in Hebrew) crowd, “You help me and my team at the U.N. make [it] easier to transmit the message that Israel is not just a country of strife, horror and destruction [as seen on the news], but a country of excellence, beauty and creativity… whose people… have given to the world probably more — in technology, medicine, culture, agriculture — than any other country.” Alluding to the benefit’s mission, Consul General Aryeh Mekel said: “Israel [is] a country based on immigration from more than 100 countries, a melting pot society [where] many are left behind” due to neglect, family and social conflicts, violence and substance abuse. “ELEM’s programs have reached out to help those in need overcome a dysfunctional life.”

Reflecting on the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler waxed biblical. “Our tradition tells us, ‘In every generation, they stand up to destroy us and the Lord saves us from their hand.’ But not that time [the Shoah]. We lost 6 million. We thought that the Holocaust had cured the Western world of antisemitism. It was just a moratorium. We need Israel as a guarantor and a protector.”

ELEM Chairman Yochanan Wozner, a professor of social work, stated: “Thirty percent of Israeli youngsters are under the poverty line, not only financially but [also] in mental terms. When I told schoolchildren of my own [Hungarian] history and the Holocaust, a student asked: ‘What is Holocaust?’ another answered, ‘It has something to do with Jesus’; another girl said, ‘It’s Hitler, not Jesus.’ It’s not just not using drugs, or food and clothing. It is a question of educating them and [ELEM] giving them information of what the world is about. We try our best.”

American Jewish Historical Society Chairman Ken Bialkin, husband of Ann Bialkin and an ELEM committee member, described honoree George Blumenthal as “a pathfinder, an innovator… who revolutionized the digitization of ancient Jewish scripts and archives.” Blumenthal responded, “I contribute through technology… the democratization of knowledge of the world’s documents that will be meaningful to our children.” By the year’s end, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Aleppo Codex, Herzl’s diaries and more will be available on the Web.

“He should have been on the U.S. Supreme Court,” Rather said of Floyd Abrams, a William J. Brennan, Jr. Visiting Professor of First Amendment Law at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Brennan is the author of the recently published “Speaking Freely: Trials of the First Amendment” (Viking Press). Alluding warmly to his co-honoree wife, who is quite active in ELEM-related causes, Abrams said: “At home we do not need a First Amendment. Speaking freely is the norm.”

* * *

At the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York’s June 9 gala dinner, honoring Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel, Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted the JCRC’s community programs and the reciprocal America-Israel, Israel-America support, and cited New York City and Jerusalem as equally “diverse” cities “free from oppression.” UJA-Federation of New York Executive Vice President and CEO John Ruskay offered greetings, and departing JCRC President Ezra Levin was presented with a leadership award. Among the guests were public relations maven Howard Rubenstein; New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly (a past JCRC honoree); Rhonda Barad, Eastern director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Martin Begun, a former JCRC president, and Toby and Bernard Nussbaum (respectively a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz and vice president at Metropolitan New York Coordinating Committee for Jewish Poverty).

A video in which Bill Clinton paid tribute to Ailes promted Henry Kissinger to quip that he was “following the man who was my second choice in two presidential elections.” Still, Kissinger expressed respect for Clinton’s “eloquence” and “contribution to peace.” Kissinger also noted that, thanks to Ailes’s “vision,” Fox News had “more viewers than other cables combined.” Stating that he “always wanted to be introduced by a Nobel Prize winner,”Ailes cited Kissinger’s observation that “the nice thing about being a celebrity is that when you bore people, they think it’s their fault.” Ailes praised Clinton, “who worked extremely hard to bring peace to the Middle East… and despite health issues, traveled thousands of miles to bring America’s humanitarian message to the world.” Still, Ailes could not overlook a glitch in Clinton’s video tribute. “He called me ‘Red State Roger.’ Mr. President — Arkansas is a red state now!”

Telling the crowd at The Pierre, “Our motto at Fox News is ‘We Report, You Decide,’” Ailes added, “Our job is to give the American people information they can use… to tell them the truth wherever that truth falls…. We have investigated everything from corporate to government scandal and will continue to do so. Our network alone pursued the U.N. Oil for Food Scandal for six months before other networks covered it.” Ailes asserted: “We will report the truth, but we don’t get up every morning assuming our country or any free country is guilty. Any objective view of the world bears out the remarkable similarities between Israel and America…. David Ben-Gurion clearly read and understood the American Declaration of Independence. He said: ‘You will always find Israel ready to make its noble contribution at the side of the United States in its effort to strengthen justice and peace in the world.’…When Israel stands safe and free, then all people of the region can create a fair and just society for themselves and be included in a peaceful world community.’”

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