Rabbi Buchwald Speaks of Highs and Lows of Jewish Outreach


By Masha Leon

Published February 20, 2004, issue of February 20, 2004.
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“Almost 60% of American Jews have nothing at all to do with Judaism,” Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, impassioned founder and director of the National Jewish Outreach Program, said at its February 3 dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Changing tacks, he said: “For the past 16 years NJOP has reached 730,000 North American Jewish souls… taught them Hebrew and basic Judaism and given them a positive Shabbat experience.”

He praised Michael Steinhardt, “one of NJOP’s great benefactors,” for his “Birthright [Israel] program to send young Jews to Israel,” adding, “If [not] for the efforts of Reb Shlomo Carlebach, who first attracted Judy and Michael [Steinhardt], and the influence of Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg constantly badgering him about the primacy of intensive Jewish education, would Michael be pulling off the revolution in Jewish philanthropy that he is today?”

Addressing the 600 guests, Buchwald singled out “a representative of the Avi Chai Foundation, founded by the late Zalman Chaim Bernstein [of] Sanford C. Bernstein [& Company brokerage firm]… today the largest Jewish foundation anywhere in the world, with assets of over $1 billion” and retired Lieutenant Colonel Scott Rutter, “who received a Silver Star for his service in the main effort in Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

During dinner, guest speaker Ed Koch gave me a “synopsis” of his keynote address: “This organization prides itself on reaching out. [But] in addition to everything else the Jews do, they have to reach out to the Christians who want to be our friends. I made it my job as mayor and continue to do it today…. There are only 13 million of us, and antisemitism is now our No. 1 problem.”

Koch’s table companion was Sant Singh Chatwal, an NJOP supporter and one of its 2001 honorees. Born in northern India, Chatwal is president and chief executive officer of Hampshire Hotels & Resorts, LLC and a co-publisher of News India Group and News India TV. (He accompanied President Clinton on his last visit to India.) In partnership with Holocaust survivor Sam Domb, a past NJOP honoree, Chatwal’s holdings include 12 hotels in the Times Square area.

* * *

A dazzling Marilyn Sokol caught my attention at the February 2 Hedge Funds Care “Open Your Heart to the Children” benefit at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. A guest of the evening’s honoree, Martin Richards, this was not the Marilyn Sokol I remembered from her performances in such theatrical productions as “Angel Levine” and “The Rise of David Levinsky.” Robin “Rob” Davis founded Hedge Funds Care in 1998 to support programs focusing on the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. He touted Richards, who with his late wife, Mary Lea Johnson Richards, founded the Children’s Advocacy Center of Manhattan, “where a mother takes her child when it has been raped… It [gets] a physical and psychological exam… and is given back its life.”

In 1976, the couple co-founded the Producer Circle Co. Richards’ film coups include “The Boys from Brazil,” “The Shining” and, most recently, the Oscar-winning “Chicago.” A pensive Richards disclosed: “Child abuse is not limited to the poor…. My wife… came from an important and rich family.… She knew what it was like to live her adult life as if she had done something wrong.… Finally,” he paused, “she realized she was not to blame.”

In her greetings printed in the event brochure, Hedge Funds Care executive director Doris Schwartz noted new chapters opening in San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta and Toronto. Among local grant recipients: the Jewish Child Care Association of New York and the Westchester Jewish Community Services.

* * *

The best-selling author Olivia Goldsmith (whose death at age 54 last month due to a chin tuck gone wrong is detailed in the February 16 issue of New York magazine) was honored by the National Women’s Division of Albert Einstein College of Medicine at its May 1998 “Spirit of Achievement” luncheon.

Lamenting her then-unmarried state, Goldsmith, author of the 1992 best seller “The First Wives Club” (which had been rejected by 27 publishers), had entreated the women at the Pierre: “I do fiction. You guys make miracles…. Will somebody cure me of my singleness?”

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