Friendship, Culture Link America, Israel


By Masha Leon

Published December 05, 2003, issue of December 05, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

“We are the No. 1 target of a new form of antisemitism….. Israel has become the collective Jew,” said Mortimer Zuckerman, president of the America-Israel Friendship League, at the league’s November 12 Partners for Democracy Award dinner. “If the Iraq venture fails,” Zuckerman cautioned, “a new wave of antisemitism will target the Jews of the world.”

The 600 stellar guests at the New York Hilton were welcomed by Dan Gillerman, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, and Kenneth Bialkin, board chairman of the league, who acknowledged Moscow’s chief rabbi, Pincus Goldschmidt; Russia’s consul general, Viacheslav Pavlovskij, and Colonel Jack Jacobs (U.S. Army, retired), the only living Jewish recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“Russia, America, Israel have the same strategic interests,” said honoree Len Blavatnik, chairman of Access Industries, described in the dinner’s journal as “a global private investment firm with… equity stakes in the energy, minerals and mining, telecommunications, real estate and financial service sectors in Russia, Eurasia, Western Europe and the United States.”

Blavatnik expressed gratitude to “the Jewish organizations that helped” him after he came to the United States from Minsk in 1978.

Honoree Joseph Flom — a partner of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP — said modestly, “I was taught to give back…. I am Jewish, so my priorities go to support Jewish and Israeli institutions.” But Flom’s philanthropic heart beats to other drummers as well: He’s respected not only for raising money for the 1990 parade for American troops returning from the Gulf War but also for establishing the Joseph and Claire Flom Foundation, which, according to the dinner’s journal, serves “gifted disadvantaged youth and programs to increase racial understanding.”

Honoree Dov Lautman, chairman of Delta Galil Industries, said whimsically, “We make our living selling shmattes to DKNY, Calvin Klein, Gap, Target… and Walmart.” Lautman joked that he had just purchased a sock company “so I can put socks on the American people.”

Nebraska’s attorney general, Jon Bruning, thanked the league “for a life-changing trip…. It had a profound impact on me…. The Arabs in Israel are treated better than the Arabs in Arab countries.” Bruning vowed: “You can count on my friendship as long as I’m in public service.”

Yigal Carmon, founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute — better known as MEMRI — recalled his hour-long February 1993 briefing at the Pentagon in which he expounded on the threat to the United States of Islamic fundamentalism. “I was told I was making too much of it…. A few hours later the first attack on the World Trade Center took place.” Apropos MEMRI’s monitoring of the Arab media and translation of Arabic news, Carmon said, “The more information you acquire, the more pain you feel.”

Israel’s minister of education, culture and sports, Limor Livnat, posited: “Where would America’s founding fathers feel more at home — in Jerusalem, Damascus or Ramallah?… Radical Islam is no different than the two ‘-isms’ that preceded it: fascism and communism.”

* * *

More than 1,000 guests attended the November 3 Loews Astor premiere of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Moriah Films documentary “Unlikely Heroes: Stories of Jewish Resistance.” Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s dean and founder, and Rhonda Barad, its eastern director, offered greetings and acknowledged director Rick Trank, who co-authored and co-produced the film. (Trank won an Academy Award for an earlier Wiesenthal Center documentary “The Long Way Home.”)

This startling, beautifully structured archival film memoir, narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley, is a long overdue revelation about seven extraordinary Jewish men and women whose ingenuity, nerve and mind-boggling chutzpah helped save thousands of European Jews during World War II. There’s Pinchas Rosenbaum, for example, a rabbi’s son who joined the underground after his entire family perished and, for more than a year, disguised himself as a high-ranking Nazi in the Hungarian Arrow Cross and risked his life to save more than 1,000 Jews from death, mostly orphans. Or take Willy Perl, an Austrian Jew who in 1938 defied then S.S. second lieutenant Adolf Eichmann and went to Berlin with a fantastic scheme to help Jews get to Palestine illegally; 40,000 made it. Do not miss this film when it is released!

* * *

At the November 9 America-Israel Cultural Foundation gala concert at Carnegie Hall, the foundation’s president, Vera Stern, presented the 2003 Aviv Award recipient Daniel Libeskind with “a copy of your AICF record from our Israel offices‚ archives detailing the scholarship you were awarded in music for the years 1957-58 and 1958-59.”

“I’m sure your dream then was to get to Carnegie Hall through your musical talent,” she said. “Forty-five years later AICF is delighted to help this dream come true.” Of Libeskind’s architectural achievements, Stern touted the Jewish Museum in Berlin, “which today, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, stands out as a symbol of remembrance at the highest art form.”

Find us on Facebook!
  • "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?
  •'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?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight":
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • 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.