Saying Thanks to the Behind-the-Scenes Bridge-Builders


By Masha Leon

Published September 26, 2003, issue of September 26, 2003.
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Wearing his New York City Fire Department chaplain’s uniform, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, president of the New York Board or Rabbis, delivered the invocation at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York “Rebuilders of New York” September 9 dinner. JCRC officer and dinner co-chair Sally Goodgold offered the ha’motzi. Among the 300 guests at the Plaza were six of JCRC’s past presidents — Peggy Tishman, Lester Pollack, Kenneth Bialkin, Martin Begun, Judah Gribetz, Gedalia Horowitz — as well as World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein, City Comptroller William Thompson, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, and co-chairs Amy and Howard Rubenstein , the publicity maven.

“We at JCRC work to further protect the interests of the Jews and of all New Yorkers,” said JCRC president Ezra Levin. “Some of our best work is done behind the scenes.”

He then cited a “bridge-building” scenario: “Bob Kaplan, director of our Intergroup Relations, went in for ice cream with an Arab American and a BBC correspondent who was interviewing them on Coney Island Avenue, a neighborhood having the largest concentration of Muslims (predominantly Pakistani) and Jews (predominantly Orthodox) adjacent to one another — Flatbush and Boro Park…. Bob noticed an office next door of a council of Pakistani organizations… introduced himself. Four weeks later he received an urgent phone call. With the threatened Iraq war, the Pakistani community was concerned about a backlash…. In response, the JCRC, working with the Brooklyn borough president’s office, helped put together a conference titled ‘We Are All Brooklyn.’ The message was loud and clear: We all have the same aims: A better life for our families and our neighbors.”

A chipper Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who just returned from Israel, where he said he “rode buses and visited victims of terror,” urged: “Send letters to the president. Thank him for standing up against terrorism — [whatever] your political stripe.”

A video tribute to New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly featured heart-thumping music from the film “Gladiator.” After accepting the Defender of New York Award from then-president and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange Richard Grasso, who had yet to resign, a beaming Kelly thanked “Veronica, my wife of 40 years,” then lauded Bloomberg for his support of the Police Department “despite a very difficult economy.” Kelly cited the JCRC as “one of the most effective community organizations anywhere.”

He detailed a series of plots (averted) and the Police Department’s measures to protect Jewish neighborhoods and synagogues. “Our deputy commissioner for intelligence, David Cohen, and his staff are in regular contact with the police departments of major cities throughout the world…. It is a sad reality that in some corners of the world, the Jewish people remain a target of mindless hatred and violence…The world should know that those who try to inflict violence upon New York City will be met by the full force of the Police Department and all its members.”

The JCRC also honored Ruth Horowitz, managing director of Lehman Bros., Inc.; Louis Rana, senior vice president of Con Edison, and Paul Crotty, Group president of Verizon Communications. Michael Miller, JCRC executive vice president, thanked a roster of JCRC supporters, and the chief chaplain of New York City’s Police Department, Rabbi Alvin Kass, gave the closing benediction.

* * *

Shoppers gawked at the glamorous guests mingling on Bloomingdale’s main floor at the September 4 opening of the Burberry Accessory Shop. Amid the din of electronic rock and chatter buzz, the department store’s chairman and CEO, Michael Gould, posed for photographers with Safe Horizon board members Cynthia Lufkin, Felicia Taylor and Malaak Compton-Rock (wife of comic Chris Rock).

It was a New York “feel-good” shidduch — match — melding fashion with support for Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading nonprofit victim-assistance advocacy and violence prevention organization. Proceeds from the three-day Burberry sale were earmarked for Safe Horizon, whose programs include domestic-violence shelters and 24-hour hotlines that help more than 350,000 New Yorkers each year.

* * *

From my Rosh Hashana-New Year greetings mail bag: A note from Jerry Daniels, a “marathon runner with a mission” in Malibu, Calif., who has dedicated his runs to the memory of Anne Frank, Leon Klinghoffer and other victims of antisemitism.

He writes: “For Yom Kippur I am sending donations to about 75 synagogues around the world to say yizkor for the victims of the Le Vernet Concentration Camp [30 miles north of the Spanish border]. The New Republic in November 11, 1940, called it the French Dachau. It has been erased from the landscape.”

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