Celebrating Tel Aviv University


By Masha Leon

Published July 28, 2006, issue of July 28, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

“Jews can survive persecution. Jews can’t survive indifference,” said 90-year old Bernard Lewis, an honoree at the June 14 Tel Aviv University Jubilee dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria. Lewis, who is Cleveland E. Dodge professor of Near Eastern studies, emeritus, at Princeton University and visiting fellow of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Institute of Advanced Studies, is an author whose most recent book is “From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East” (Oxford University Press, 2004). Citing a recent listing of the 500 best universities in the world, Lewis beamed: “Of the 200 in the Middle East, the top seven were Tel Aviv, Haifa, Hebrew, Bar-Ilan, Weizmann, Technion and Ben-Gurion. Lest it be labeled as Jewish plotting,” Lewis continued, “the committee that made this [evaluation] was from the People’s Republic of China Academy!” Honoree Dov Lautman, Delta Galil Industries Ltd.’s chairman of the board and CEO, said: “I’m a schmatte maker. Hope you are all comfortable with your underwear.” Ambassador Dan Gillerman lauded Lautman, who has endowed a number of TAU programs and helped further peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs, as “having single-handedly made Israel a better place.”

Also touting TAU — with 30,000 students, 100 departments and Israel’s largest medical research center — were Consul General Arye Mekel and Ambassador Daniel Ayalon (a 1981 TAU alumnus). In his introduction of honoree Michael Steinhardt, Ayalon offered an anecdote relating to Henry Kissinger’s 1970s shuttle diplomacy that brought the then U.S. secretary of state to Israel and to the Jerusalem zoo. Astonished to see a lion and a lamb in the same cage, the zoo director assured Kissinger, “Every day we change the lamb.” TAU’s president, Itamar Rabinovich, offered a Turkish variant of the lamb-lion scenario: “Next time you are invited to dinner, make sure you are not on the menu.”

Praised for his initiative in enabling 100,000 students to travel to Israel via Birthright Israel, Steinhardt, managing member of Steinhardt Management LLC and chairman of TAU’s international board of governors, envisioned “a Jewish community living in a Renaissance. Our day schools would rival the country’s best private schools in their academic excellence, and Jewish camps would flourish instead of attracting less than 20% of their eligible cohort. And how about we develop new mechanisms to reach out to the 40% of Jews in America who no longer come into any Jewish institutions at all? Imagine a new articulation of Judaism — a common Judaism that respects the secularity of most Jews while emphasizing values that have stood the test of time. No longer would Jewish tradition and secular values be incompatible. The best of both worlds would be celebrated and integrated so that Judaism would be meaningful and relevant once again.”

“Each generation produces one Renaissance man,” dinner chair Harvey Krueger noted when he introduced keynote speaker James Wolfensohn, chairman of Wolfensohn & Company, LLC. Having served as the ninth president of the World Bank and as special envoy for the 2005 Gaza disengagement, Wolfensohn focused his statistics-numbing address on “the world of 2050,” when “eight of the world’s 9 billion people will be in developing countries.” He cited several angst raisers, noting that “China will be the largest economy in the world in 2040” and that “the population of India will probably double in five years.” In concluding, he mused pensively: “I’m not sure how many Jews there will be in that world.”

* * *

On June 13, the day before the TAU gala, the annual Aleph Society Dinner was held at the St. Regis Hotel. At the event, Wolfensohn engaged author and social critic Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in a dialogue titled “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” During the adversarial yet amicable exchange, Wolfensohn said he was “saddened” at how many classic Jewish sources of charity focus exclusively on the needs of the Jewish community. Steinsaltz responded: “We were fighting for our lives, not for our comforts. If we do not care for ourselves, nobody will.” However, he added that while “our primary concern should be for those closest to us, we also have an obligation to take pity on our broader human family.” Coincidentally, my tablemate at a recent dinner was a Jewish philanthropist who felt agita at the deep-pocket support of his fellow Jewish philanthropists for non-Jewish institutions — museums, arts, etc. “We’re always out there in disproportionate numbers on the world’s humanitarian barricades, but when it comes to funding Jewish education, museums, arts….?”

Der Yiddish Vinkl will return next week.

Find us on Facebook!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.