Bolton Talks Tough At Rabin Center Gala

By Masha Leon

Published December 01, 2006, issue of December 01, 2006.
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“Why are we Americans so disliked in the world?” Larry King queried John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and keynote speaker at the November 5 gala of the American Friends of Rabin Medical Center at Cipriani 42nd Street. “Because they don’t like our values… our culture is too open, too free… resentment of our power…. America is not an imperialist power… most Americans want to be left alone.” King pursued: “How do you deal with unfriendly governments?” Bolton replied: “…. I do talk to every government the U.S. has diplomatic relations with. I don’t talk to North Korea or Iran.”

Citing the reign of Saddam Hussein and the need to deal with the “totalitarianism of the Baath party,” Bolton labeled the dictator himself “a chemical weapon of mass destruction against the people of Iraq.” Apropos nuclear proliferation in the region, Bolton touted [Libyan leader Muammar] Kadhafi’s decision to “dismantle his nuclear weapons,” which are now in Oak Ridge, Tenn. “There is lots of room left at Oak Ridge to store Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear weapons,” Bolton said. King asked, “Do you like your job?” Bolton smiled: “I love it! It is a target-rich environment.”

Having exchanged his TV interviewer’s blue shirt and suspenders uniform for a tuxedo with a black-and-white speckled bowtie, AFRMC’s perennial emcee, King, chuckled, “I’ve been here so many times, I feel like I belong in the [Rabin] medical center.” With a nod to the Yiddish speakers in the room, King joshed: “What do you call ‘Three Coins in a Fountain’?” — a close reference to the title song from the 1954 film “Three Coins in the Fountain”. He then replied, “Aroysgevorfene gelt— wasted money.”

A welcome by AFRMC’s board chairman, Abraham “Barry” Cohen, launched the gala that honored theater librettist, playwright and “Broadway legend” Joseph Stein (“Fiddler on the Roof,” “Zorba,” “Rags”) and artist and philanthropist Dina Recanati (who, along with her family, helped establish the Recanati Genetics Center and Recanati Center for Medicine and Research at Rabin Medical Center). Former Israeli first lady Nava Barak, president of Israel Friends of RMC, spoke emotionally of Israel’s recent war casualties. Her commentary was augmented by a video of 24-year-old Shai Golan, “one of the most severely wounded soldiers.” Golan had been airlifted to Rabin Medical Center, where he “was brought back to function.”

The center’s history at Petah Tikvah goes back to 1878, when ground was first broken for a hospital. In 1936, the Beilinson Hospital was founded with 120 beds and a staff of 57; in 1996 it was renamed for Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s late prime minister. Today the Rabin Medical Center serves more than 1 million patients a year — Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims. The center carries out most organ transplants in Israel, most cancer treatments, most heart procedures, the most births and the most organ transplants. It boasts the country’s largest sophisticated women’s health facility and is central Israel’s primary trauma center. Unlike live auctions at fundraising galas for such goodies as luxurious trips, jewels or assignations with celebrities, AFRMC raised funds for a number of special state-of-the-art medical beds and therapeutic equipment.

Among the black-tie guests who enjoyed the evening’s musical program provided by Marvin Hamlisch, Shawn King and “The Jazz Museum in Harlem All-Stars Band” were Vera Stern, Helen Gurley Brown and David Brown, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, Ann and Kenneth Bialkin, and — from California — Claude and Alfred Mann.


“There is still a tremendous gap between the haves and the have-nots in Israel,” declared New York-based consul general Arye Mekel at the November 7 pre-theater dinner benefit for ELEM —Youth in Distress in Israel. As the more than 300 ELEM boosters enjoyed an eclectic spicy Indian vegetarian buffet at the theater district eatery Utsav, Mekel touted “ELEM [as] one of the most important organizations for the State of Israel. The [government’s] budget has been transferred to defense issues, so it’s up to ELEM to be at the forefront of these issues.” ELEM/International’s honorary president, Barak, praised America’s indefatigable ELEM president, Ann Bialkin, for her efforts on behalf of the organization. “Over 1 million people had to leave their homes and hide in shelters; ELEM directed the efforts to send teens from the North to the center of Israel” Barak said, adding, “Tiberias, my hometown… [has been] scarred by Katyusha rockets.”

The guests proceeded to the Cort Theater for a preview performance of Douglas Carter Beane and Ari Graynor’s saucy “The Little Dog Laughed.” The invitation captioned the work as “A new comedy about Hollywood’s dirty little secrets,” starring Julie White, Tom Everett Scott, Johnny Galecki and Graynor. White gives a tour de force performance as Diane, an actor’s agent from hell with a mission to rein in a client who keeps sabotaging not only Diane but also his own future. Not sure if it was the total male nudity or a sudden toothache that prompted a few hasty exits during intermission. Celebrity lawyer Barry Slotnick (not with the ELEM party) was among the crowd of theatergoers who stayed until the last laughs.


At the conclusion of the presentations at the Israel Cancer Research Fund’s Annual Breast Cancer Awareness evening (hosted last month by Mona Ackerman at her Fifth Avenue apartment), my head was spinning with facts, dates, statistics. Participants in this medical-historical-genealogical update included Dr. Julie Mitnick, founder of Murray Hill Radiology & Mammography (since 1998 on the list of New York Magazine’s “Best Doctors in New York”); Dr. Ruth Oratz, clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine, and Dr. Kenneth Offit, chief of clinical genetics service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Focusing on the genetic predisposition for cancer by women who carry the BRCA mutations, Offit stated: “When we wrote our New England Journal paper years ago, 70% of the patients were Jewish. But we didn’t say that, because it wasn’t relevant. But now, all over the world, women are doing preventive ovarian surgery because of BRCA mutations. Jews don’t get more breast cancer than anyone else. There is no more breast cancer in Israel than in Portugal or Sweden. But among the Jewish population, we can do tests to predict who will get breast cancer, because more of it is hereditary.”

The first of several “Aha!” moments occurred when Offit disclosed: “When we did our version of a radioactive dating… we date the [BRCA2] mutation to around 1500. In other words, a woman existed at around 1500 who got that mutation, and then every woman who got that mutation is now related to that woman.… But what is interesting is no Sephardic Jew has that mutation.” The BRCA2 mutation appeared in the Sephardic population after the 1492 expulsion. “The BRAC1 mutation happened much earlier in Jewish history,” Offit said.

Aton Friedman, the guy who swam the English Channel, told me that in his clinic in Tel Aviv, he will test Arab populations [among which there is] one of the Jewish mutations that causes colon cancer. That mutation happened so early that it’s actually in Arabs, as well as Ashkenazi, as well as in Sephardic, as well as in Moroccan Jews.” Then there is the question of why breast cancer was more common on Long Island than elsewhere. Offit explained: “There are other parts in the country that have profiles much like Long Island… Minneapolis, Minn., for example. What do Long Island and Minneapolis have in common?”

Offit then told of testing a Hispanic doctor who, it turned out, was Jewish. Offit referred to Hispanic Mexican patients with breast cancer who have the same mutation as Ashkenazic women. “[Descended from Marranos] they live in the San Luis Valley in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado…. These were Jews who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal [in 1492] who came to Mexico…. These families still have some interesting rituals… having candles on the table on Friday night at dinner, but not in a room that has windows — so no one would see them. They observed fast days, because it was not so noticeable if you skipped lunch.” Offit recalled: “One patient told me a very interesting story… one woman, when she served her husband dinner, was very, very careful not to let any food on the plate touch. They don’t eat pork, by the way. There is chicken, potatoes, vegetables, but nothing could touch. This is [their] weird interpretation of being kosher… not having things touch.” The evening ended with an appeal to support the ICRF, the largest single source of private funds for cancer research in Israel and the only organization in North America devoted solely to supporting cancer studies by Israeli researchers. ICRF grants have engendered major breakthroughs in the battle against cancer, including Gleevec, Velcade and Doxil cancer treatments.

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