Frankie Valli, Paul Williams at Caron Gala

Caron New York 20th Annual Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street was launched by NYU’s “Ani v’Ata” Jewish acapella group.

There was a serving of laughter courtesy of comedian Stewie Stone, vice-president of NYC Friars Club and self-described “recovering alcoholic” as was Paul Williams president and CEO ASCAP and the award presenter to the evening’s honoree Frankie Valli.

As a respite from the gala’s sobering message apropos the toll alcohol and drug abuse visits on families, Stone had the nearly 800 guests roaring to such comedic noshes as: “In Florida you can always spot an ethnic table by how they order: Italian table: ’Hey! a little vino here. Irish table: ‘A little more beer here!’ Jewish table: ‘We didn’t get any rolls…Can we have some rolls here!’”

Denise LeFrak Calicchio and Frankie Valli // Photo by: Karen Leon

Recipient of the Richard J. Caron Award of Excellence Denise LeFrak Calicchio was greeted by Stone with “I could never get an apartment in one of your father’s buildings.” The inspiration for Frankie Valli’s hit “Denise, Denise,” Calicchio launched her acceptance speech with: “I lost my beautiful mother Ethel [Lefrak] exactly one year ago today. Her main mission besides raising her family was to help people less fortunate. This is my family’s legacy [that] I am honored to carry on. “

Caron president Douglas Tieman informed that the impact of alcohol and drug abuse on our society today…“is the # 1 health care problem in America…costing more than $500 billion; #1 cause of crime…home breakup…with 40% of 8th graders having tried drugs or alcohol…. The #1 concern of parents in the country today is ‘How do I get my child through those teenage years unscathed?’” It’s 2014 and I can safely say there’s not a person whose life has not been affected by some form of [drug or alcohol] addictions. Caron will help you get sober…overcome your demons, and see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“My name is Paul Williams and I am an alcoholic…I stood on this stage a year ago when Judy Collins gave me this award…. My sobriety date is March 15, 1990. What you get from the Caron Foundation is far beyond putting the plug in the jug….. What you get is your life back. Alcohol and Cocaine addiction made me feel big enough to deal with the rest of the world…Cocaine made me feel like I could shoot basketball for money… I am honored to present the award to the Energizer Bunny of Rock ‘N Roll — lead singer of the Four Seasons’ [hits] “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” who sold 100 million records…. The life I have today I could not have imagined without Caron [one of the oldest and largest group of treatment facilities in the U.S.]”

“This is a very exciting evening for me,” said Valli. “I did not know there was a foundation like this helping people…I was truly amazed…. In 1980 I lost a daughter to drugs…[it was] devastating. I never really knew I could help…but from today on, if you guys need anything, I promise you, I will be there.!”

Your Stories

  • "I push wagons, I work with a shovel, I turn rotten in the rain, I shiver in the wind; already my own body is no longer mine: my belly is swollen, my limbs emaciated, my face is thick in the morning, hollow in the evening; some of us have yellow skin, others grey. When we do not meet for a few days we hardly recognize each other."Primo Levi, "Survival in Auschwitz"

  • "This holiday we take for ourselves,
 no longer silent servers behind the curtain, 
but singers of the seder,
 with voices of gladness,
 creating our own convocation,
 and leaving ‘The Narrow Place’ together."E.M. Broner

  • "The idea of opening the door is that we hope Elijah might actually be there this year – that we might actually have done enough to change the world to have had him arrive. And, if we don’t have even the tiniest bit in us that thinks he might be there, that thinks we have tried our hardest to bring around a messianic time, with no hunger, no war, no conflict, no pain – if we don’t believe that we have tried to end those broken parts in the world – well, then I tell my students – don’t do any of it."Rabbi Leora Kaye

  • "The whole seder, for me, is the tension between two statements: We say, 'We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and now we’re free,' but before that, we pick up the matzoh, we invite the hungry in and we say, 'This year we are slaves, next year may we be free.' We are the most fortunate, liberated Jews in history. But on the other hand, there are lots of things that enslave us."Rabbi Arthur Green

  • "To tune of "Mack the Knife": "Enter Haman ben Hamdasa, /And he’s claimin’, he’s an Agagite. /Better look out, oh Hadassah/For that Haman—he’s an Amalekite./And though Haman, he’s in power now, That old Mordy, will not bow down. /Haman’s ego, it takes a powder now. And just like that—Amalek’s in town!""By Rabbi Jan Uhrbach

  • "Do you know that every shepherd/ has his own tune? / Do you know that every blade/ of grass has its own poem?/ And from the poem/ of the grasses,/ a tune of the shepherd/ is made./ How beautiful and/ pleasant to hear/ this poem!"Reb Nachman of Breslov's Likutei Moharan

  • "Tu B'Shvat is more than a New Year for Trees -- it is a call to action. To observe Tu B'Shvat isn't to read and pray, but to do, to plant, to place one's hands in contact with the Earth....While we may mark Tu B'Shvat as a Jewish Earth Day once a year, we are responsible as Jews to act as environmental stewards every day."David Krantz - Aytzim: Ecological Judaism

  • "Donniel Hartman said the miracle of Hanukkah is not just that the oil lasted 8 days; it’s actually that it lasted more than one. Would we have said, 'Dayenu,' (to mix metaphors,) if it had lasted two days? Would we have had a holiday? Probably, yes. The idea that we as a Jewish community, even in our darkest moments, hold out the hope that a candle is going to keep burning, I find very powerful."Rabbi Rachel Ain

  • "“We would all argue vehemently and work tireless against assimilation. But the Hellenists and we Reform Jews didn’t assimilate. We acculturate, and by doing so, provide a portal for continuity unavailable to those who continue a quasi-ghettoized existence with all the ramifications thereof, good and bad. The irony, rarely mentioned by those who use the Hanukah story to justify Orthodoxy, is that the Maccabees (Hasmoneans) lasted a century and a half before they disappeared, having taken on Greek names as High Priests and Kings. And Rabbinic Judaism, the first ‘reform’ movement, birthed all of us.”"Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein

  • "I find it refreshing to go from carrying the decomposing lulav and etrog in our hands in procession for 7 days (save for Shabbat), to carry absolutely nothing on Shemini Atzeret, to then carry a Torah on Simchat Torah. It’s like Judaism’s way of saying… ‘What you are carrying with you on this journey — Torah, lessons, stories, values, covenant, a connection with a higher power and history — all of the intangibles, you carry them with you on the tangible, tentative, twisting path of life."Rabbi Paul Jacobson

  • "Shemini Atzeret is conceptually an attempt to maintain the holiday relationship with God without any specific rituals. In modern times it has been become eclipsed by the joy and dancing of Simchat Torah. This speaks to the difficulty in a pure relationship without concrete modes of expression. It could be a reminder that our close relationships exist even when we don't exchange presents or cards."Rabbi Yosef Blau

  • "Sukkot is the reminder that it doesn't take two days or even two years to go from darkness to light. It might take an entire lifetime to get there and you have to constantly walk with the belief that it's possible."Rabbi Sharon Brous

  • "Yom Kippur: God is our judge. Sukkot: God is our shelter. Yom Kippur: you sit cooped up for endless hours. Sukkot is about space and breath. Yom Kippur, it’s all about, ‘What have I done?’ And Sukkot is, ‘What can I do in the world?’"Rabbi Naomi Levy

  • "The Rabbis in the Talmud spoke of the necessity of both sinai and oker harim, that is both those who collected traditions that were handed down and also those who literally “overturned mountains.” Essentially, the one group would not survive without the other. It is in the radical interpretations of the given traditions, and in the broad and fluent knowledge of the traditions that one is able to create radical new interpretations."Dr. Aryeh Cohen

  • ""I have never felt that repentence, prayer, and tzedakah would change my fate. Rather, I feel that through honest reflection, refinement, and a sense of responsibility, I do have incredible power to affect the decree for others.""Cantor Ellen Dreskin

  • "Teshuvah does invite us to begin again, but not from the beginning. Part of what it means to be human is to learn how to begin again and again – from right where we are, right in the messy middle of things. The Torah, according to an ancient midrash, reminds us of this truth by opening the story of creation itself with the letter Bet…Even when we have rolled the parchment scroll as far back as it will go, the letter Bet meets us there -- insisting that this story cannot be told from the very beginning. No story can. Beginnings elude us."Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

  • "This year our theme at Temple Emanuel Beverly Hills is “If not Now, When?” and we asked congregants to tweet their responses to #innwtebh or to fill out cards filling in the blanks :“If not now, when will I….” We will prepare these ‘intentions for the year” in a similar way, as a power point presentation scrolling quietly on the screen facing the congregation as individuals come forward silently in front of the open ark before neilah."Rabbi Laura Geller

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