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For a Good Cause: Teaching, Giving and Running

Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, and his wife, Nane Annan, managed a brief appearance at the September 20 VIP reception of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation Annual Awards Dinner, honoring Sweden’s prime minister, Göran Persson. Rabbi Arthur Schneier, foundation president, warmly embraced the secretary general: “You have the burden of the world on your shoulders,” he said, “[and] a special fondness for Sweden.” (Mrs. Annan is a niece of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who in 1944 saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from being sent to death in Auschwitz.)

Persson, the foundation’s World Statesman Award recipient, told the 650 guests at the Marriott Marquis: “No one has the right to oppress others…We must not surrender to terrorism.… If democracy cannot put a stop to terrorism, terrorism will put a stop to democracy.… [We] need a U.N. that can act quickly and strongly.” Persson made reference to “The Living History Project” which he implemented in 1997. Part of a program to teach the Holocaust in Sweden’s schools, the project’s text, “Tell Ye Your Children: A Book About the Holocaust in Europe 1933-1945,” was translated into seven “of the most common immigrant languages,” including Arabic, and sent to every household in Sweden.

“HSBC has offices in 175 countries… in Tel Aviv and Ramallah,” said Appeal of Conscience Award recipient Sir John Bond, Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings plc. “We do business with Hindus, Muslims, Jews.” Honing in on global issues such as “free markets not yet spread,” and “the multicultural tapestry” of job-seeking migrants, Bond stressed: “Respect for other peoples’ cultures is a requisite for peoples’ economic success.… No country has a monopoly on ‘the right way.’ We need to embrace diversity as an opportunity, not as a threat.”

Public Service Award recipient John Whitehead, chairman, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, elicited applause when he stated: “Religious leaders [are] shockingly silent… .[There] are no opposing voices.… Strongly silent where voices of moderate Muslims could influence….Right now, religion is a problem. Many think religion is the answer.” Rabbi Schneier, the foundation’s founder, amplified: “Religion has been, and will continue to be, a contributing factor in a violent conflict…. Religion is like fire — a source for good and a source for evil.… This is why the Appeal of Conscience Foundation has reached out to religious leaders all over the world to make their voices heard and warn people that ‘a crime perpetrated in the name of religion is the greatest crime against religion.’ This call was adopted at the 1992 Appeal of Conscience conference in Berne, Switzerland, at which Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders of the former Yugoslavia met for the first time!”

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If Michael Steinhardt, chairman of Jewish Life Network and author of “No Bull: My Life In and Out of Markets” (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2001), had not been honored on September 22 at the 2004 Center for Jewish Studies celebration at University at Albany, I would not have learned that this New York State University campus, home to one of country’s oldest Judaic studies departments, boasts the ninth-largest concentration of Jewish students on any campus in the country — more than 4,000 out of a total enrollment of more than 17,000!

Among the 120 guests at The Riverview in Hastings on Hudson were Israel Singer, chairman, World Jewish Congress, Claims Conference; Alan Goldberg, president of First Albany Corporation; and Mark Raider, the center’s director, who declared: “This is a great opportunity to celebrate one of the most spectacular Jewish leaders of our day.”

“I am delighted to show my support for the Center for Jewish Studies at U/Albany,” Steinhardt said. “As the only initiative of its kind in New York public higher education, the center plugs a significant gap in Jewish studies at the college level…. Its graduates will serve our community as educators and professionals, helping to transform our institutions so that they are equipped to flourish in contemporary America. For this I salute you!” The Medallion of the University (University at Albany’s highest honor) was presented to Steinhardt by the university’s interim president, John Ryan, USN (Ret.)

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Malibu, Calif.-based “Marathon-Runner-With-a-Cause” Jerry Daniels has run marathons in memory of Anne Frank and Leon Klinghoffer and the Semi-marathon de Paris in honor of the Trappes Jewish community synagogue (burned to the ground in 2000 by ‘“five local Arab youths”). He wrote to President Bush, to Pope John Paul II and to A. Engin Ansay, consul general of Turkey in Los Angeles, alerting them that: “Among the three thousands of runners in the upcoming Istanbul, Turkey Eurasia Marathon, I will be wearing a yellow T-shirt emblazoned with the names of several communities whose loved ones ended tragically: Neve Shalom Synagogue, Beit Israel synagogue, citizens of Istanbul, HSBC Bank, British Consulate, Istanbul.”

From the Vatican: “His Holiness Pope John Paul II… sends prayerful good wishes for your efforts to demonstrate solidarity with the victims of terrorism… His Holiness invokes upon you an abundance of divine blessings.” From the White House: “My belated thank you for your message and the special T-shirt… I will place it in my future presidential library as a remembrance of your efforts on behalf of others.… Sincerely, (signed George Bush). From Consul Ansay: “I would like to convey my sincere thanks… for your generous donation to Jerusalem’s center for multihandicapped blind children on the birth of my grandson.” If you write, they will respond.

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