“I’m at my local Y not because I have to get my three kids into pre-school,” joshed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, welcoming the 400 guests attending the 92nd Street Y’s February 9 “Global Citizenship” award dinner at the Marriot Marquis. “The Y,” he told the crowd, which helped raise $1.4 million, “is becoming a treasure of the country and the world, thanks to the 92nd Street Y Milstein/Rosenthal Center for Media & Technology.” Senator Charles Schumer concurred: “The Y is the icing on the cake that makes New York extra-special.”
The generosity of the evening’s honorees — Cheryl and Philip Milstein and Jacqueline and John Rosenthal — made possible this state-of-the-art center. With fiber-optic cables running through its building and a connection to satellite uplink facilities, the Y will be able to broadcast its performances and programming beyond America’s borders.
Offering a reality check on the evening’s feel-good mood, keynote speaker Mortimer Zuckerman (chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report and co-publisher of the New York Daily News), sounded off on the use of the Internet as a means of spreading anti-American and anti-Israeli propaganda. An angry Zuckerman cited such disinformation and outright lies as: “4,000 Jews did not go to work on 9/11, according to a Lebanese TV report,” and, “a Syrian TV program showing Orthodox Jews capturing a child, slitting its throat and using [its] blood to make matzos.”
Referring to the Middle East, he bristled, saying that the “media feel the need to show equal balance… The arsonist is treated the same as the firefighter.” In what proved to be a preview of his February 23/March 1 U.S. News & World Report editorial, “Building a Freedom Fence,” Zuckerman said he saw the fence as “the only solution” and predicted: “The media attacks will be gone once tanks and Israeli troops withdraw from Palestinian areas and settle behind the fence.”
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The festive premiere of Yeshiva University Museum’s exhibit “Vienna: Jews and the City of Music, 1870-1938” earlier this month at the Center for Jewish History was a delight for eye, ear and palate. Concertmaster Volkhard Steude of the Vienna Philharmonic performed works by Bach and Fritz Kreisler on a Stradivarius once owned by Arnold Rose (the Vienna Philharmonic’s concertmaster from 1881 to 1938), who fled Vienna in 1938 to London where he died in 1946). Leon Botstein, music director of the American Symphony Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, described this Stradivarius moment as a “rare treat… recapturing the 1880s sounds heard by generations of Viennese.”
The center’s chairman, Bruce Slovin, described the negotiations with the Austrian government “to bring the exhibit to the center.” Karl Albrecht-Weinberger, director of Vienna’s Jewish Museum and the father of the exhibit, explained, “The Jewish Museum in Vienna is not a Holocaust museum but a museum of cultural Jewish history whose focus is on coexistence, enlightenment, tolerance.”
Michael Breisky, Austria’s consul general in New York, said, “Until the storm troopers invaded Austria in 1938, Vienna was the capital of world Jewish culture.… This now belongs to New York.”
Vienna, he continued, “is now a magnet for Jewish life… [albeit] a more provincial capital of Jewish culture.”
“It is now possible for Jews to live in Vienna,” said Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg, chief rabbi of Vienna and Austria. “If you want to see Viennese life today,” he said, “go to Park East Synagogue and see the photo exhibit of Vienna and its Jews.” (Eisenberg said he had spent the Sabbath there with Rabbi Arthur Schneier, who was born in Vienna.)
Yeshiva University Museum director Sylvia Herskowitz introduced what she described as the art “guardian angel,” Erica Jesselson, chair of its board of directors. Jesselson presented Botstein, the exhibition’s scholarly advisor, with a mezuza shaped like a Stradivarius. “It has real gut string,” Jesselson explained.
In his introduction of the Nachtkonzert (a program of lieder sung by baritone Christian Immler, accompanied on piano by Silvia Fraser), Botstein expounded on the “legal and racial codification” of Jews by the Nazis. “There was no kind of right Jews,” said Botstein, who added that he would not identify which of the lieder’s five composers had been a “full Jew, half-Jew or a convert.”
After the musical feast came a calorie-dense Viennese dessert buffet complete with the proverbial Schlag — whipped cream.