Aid for Youths Comes in a Variety of Sizes and Shapes


By Masha Leon

Published March 28, 2003, issue of March 28, 2003.
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At the March 11 “Bunny Hop” fundraiser for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s pediatrics department, I asked Billy Bush, new host of NBC’s “Let’s Make a Deal” and event co-chair, exactly how he was related to President Bush, his cousin. Smiling broadly, he replied, “I’m just a guy named Bush. Isn’t it amazing!” After mingling with 480 children, 520 parents, Radio City Rockettes and walkabout characters Pikachu and Shrek at the FAO Schwarz event, I ran into Mortimer Zuckerman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the Swarovski Crystal booth, where his 5-year-old daughter, Abigail, was receiving a temporary tattoo of a crystal design. Sponsored by Scalamandré, the bash raised $250,000 for Sloan-Kettering’s pediatric department, which annually treats more than 1,000 youngsters.

* * *

“The Art of Packaging” gala to benefit Pratt Institute’s Marc Rosen Scholarship for Packaging Design held March 12 at the University Club honored Eric Thoreux, president and CEO of Coty Beauty Americas. Rosen, an award-winning perfume-bottle designer in whose name the scholarship was established, is a professor and trustee at Pratt Institute as well as president and CEO of Marc Rosen Associates, whose clients include Estée Lauder and Oscar de la Renta.

“I grew up in Patterson, N.J…. [and I] was bar mitzvahed. My father came here in 1915 from Warsaw, Poland; my mother is American.” Rosen mentioned that his grandfather Charles, “though not a rabbi, had the honorific ‘reverend’ and translated the English dictionary into Hebrew all by hand. As far as I know, it is now at some yeshiva in Jerusalem.”

When I asked him about a comment he’d made earlier — “Finally, a nice Jewish boy like me a doctor” — Rosen chuckled and said he had been referring to an honorary doctorate he will receive in May from Pratt. “I once thought I’d become a doctor — until I volunteered at the local hospital’s blood bank.” I first met Rosen at a 1996 tribute to Milton Berle, who was 88 at the time, six years before his death.

“You know my wife, Arlene Dahl, was responsible for Joy Behar getting on ‘The View,’” Rosen said at the Pratt benefit. “Arlene was the event co-chair and invited Joy to perform. Barbara [Walters], the award presenter, had never heard of Joy.” Walters was so impressed by Behar’s riotous routine — which opened with “I’m a shiksa non grata” — that the rest is “View” history.

* * *

Dan Doctoroff, New York City’s deputy mayor for economic development, and his wife, Alisa, hosted a March 4 reception at their Upper West Side home to celebrate the accreditation in Israel of the Jerusalem-based Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies.

“I’m passionate about the quality of Jewish education at the seminary,” said Mrs. Doctoroff, referring to the institute’s parent, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, which helped found the now independent Israeli offshoot in 1984. “The school reaches out to secular Israelis…. Judaism holds meaning and value not just for the religious,” she said.

JTS chancellor Ismar Schorsch touted the now “bona fide ideologically Conservative” Schechter Institute, “which trains native Israeli leaders,… Conservative rabbis, offers Israeli degrees and will now be part of the landscape of Israel…. [It is] no longer an extension of an American institution.” Robert Rifkind, chairman of the institute’s international board of governors, praised Schechter for “building bridges between the secular and Orthodox worlds… between modernity and tradition.” In Israel, he said, “modernists know nothing about tradition…. Traditionalists know nothing about modernism.”

Addressing the topic “Pluralism and Jewish continuity in Israel,” Israel’s consul general, Alon Pinkas, applauded “religious and cultural pluralism” as “one asset of American Jewry we should import as soon as we can.” Noting that “the Orthodox have monopolized Judaism” and citing religious schisms as “a political weapon,” he said he welcomed “secular seeding” as contributing to the “culture in Israel.”

* * *

If you can articulate such Yiddish words as khokhmes and khometz, you’ll have no problem pronouncing Vincent van Gogh as van Khokh, as does Dutchman Jochum ten Haaf, whose stunning performance as the 20-year-old artist in the Lincoln Center Theater production “Vincent in Brixton” is reason to head to Manhattan’s Golden Theatre.

Focusing on a cameo moment in the artist’s short life (van Gogh shot himself in 1890 at age 37), the play, by Nicholas Wright, was inspired by a series of letters van Gogh sent from London to his younger brother, Theo. It homes in on van Gogh’s romantic involvement with the older Ursula Loyer, marvelously portrayed by Clare Higgins.

In addition to great performances by cast members Sarah Drew (Eugene Loyer), Pete Starrett (Sam Plowman) and Liesel Matthews (Anna van Gogh) deftly directed by Richard Eyre, is Tim Hatley’s incredible set — the kitchen features a working sink in which dishes are washed, a cast-iron stove atop which a kettle boils and within whose innards fish pies are actually cooked; a huge table atop which real herbs are chopped and food prepared in a non-stop choreographed interfacing actor-food ballet. It’s a masterpiece.

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