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Intrepid Celebs Toast to Pride And Patriotism

On November 30, while the Open University was feting Bernard Kerik, former NYC cop and former candidate for Homeland Security chief, at Cipriani 42nd Street (who knew?), 12 blocks away at the Hilton, the America-Israel Friendship League honored Harvey Krueger, vice chairman, Lehman Brothers; Galia Maor, president and CEO, Bank Leumi le-Israel B.M., and Shlomo Nehama, chairman of the board of directors of Bank Hapoalim.

AIFL Chairman of the Board Kenneth Bialkin offered greetings, as did Israel’s consul general in New York, Aryeh Mekel, and Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Dan Gillerman. A video presentation highlighting the AIFL’s 30-year-long “dedication to the advancement of a long-lasting relationship between the United States and Israel through People-to-People programs” set the stage for past AIFL president Mortimer Zuckerman’s observation: “The struggle never ends… the work never ends.”

Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (who delivered the blessing), declared that “bankers were dreamers.” Krueger laughed. “No one ever said that to me… [it’s] a rapid way to lose clients.” Schneier’s “dreamer” allusion was to the pivotal role played by banks Leumi and Hapoalim in Israel’s growth. Touting Zuckerman (editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report, and chairman and co-publisher of the New York Daily News), Krueger said, “Mort [has been there] as spokesman for Israel whenever the Israeli government needed a person to bring [its] message to the American people.”

“I actually know more people from Israel than from New York,” said the surprise guest, actor Richard Gere, who was given a red rose as he mounted the podium. In his keynote address, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s vice prime minister, stressed that the only way to “maintain the Israeli character… is to separate from the Palestinians…. It’s not easy… [but]… we want to stop the endless pain and terror.” Olmert elicited applause with, “We thank God we have the U.S. of A and President George Bush. On behalf of the government and people of Israel, we thank you that you stood with us in good times and bad times.”

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Patriotism, pride, poignancy and pain launched the December 1 “Salute to Freedom” dinner aboard the USS Intrepid. After Admiral William A. Owens, USN (Ret), president and CEO, Nortel, was presented with the Intrepid Salute Award, he recounted his arrival from North Dakota at the Naval Academy, in Virginia. “I’d never been to sea and thought I was looking at the Atlantic Ocean, only to be told it was Chesapeake Bay.” While touring a Virginia home for abused children in his dress whites, “I put my hand on the shoulder of 9-year-old Caleb, who later told someone at the shelter that an ‘angel in white’ had visited him.” Owens, who kept in touch with the boy for 10 years, tearfully recalled, “Caleb later joined the Marine Corps and was killed in Iraq.”

Intrepid Foundation President Bill White introduced the foundation’s chairman, Arnold Fisher, who told the 1,000 guests in the ship’s hangar about the now “filled to capacity” Fisher Houses, where families of wounded soldiers can stay while they visit their loved ones. He cited the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which gives $11,000 to the spouse of each “fallen hero” and $5,000 to each child of American and British fallen heroes. “You’d think this is the government’s responsibility,” Fisher said. “[But] we will not wait for that debate…. It is up to us Americans… to show compassion… acknowledge their sacrifice.”

“If we don’t like the politics, we can change our leaders,” said Martin Edelman, Esq., Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP (and the foundation’s vice chairman). “We in New York are truly grateful that the recipient of tonight’s Intrepid Freedom Award is Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.… Following her work as first lady on behalf of veterans with Gulf War illnesses, Senator Clinton joined with Senator James Talent of Missouri to pass legislation that would improve medical tracing of our men and women in uniform.”

Radiant in a midnight-blue velvet gown, Hillary Clinton said she was proud to be “the first New York senator to ever serve on the Armed Services Committee.” She touted the Fisher family as having “set a standard for citizen service that is hard to equal,” and concluded: “In today’s world, it’s really not that important what one’s political affiliation is… or what part of the country one comes from…. It’s the recognition that a young person today… who volunteers to join the military, loves their country and wants to protect its values.”

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The Food Allergy Initiative’s November 30 ball opened with FAI Vice Chairman Sharyn Mann greeting the 500-plus guests at The Plaza, who raised more than $3 million. President and Chairman Todd Slotkin declared, “We seek nothing less than a cure for potentially fatal food allergies by 2010.” (Slotkin’s twin sons are fatally allergic to peanuts and to tree nuts.)

The 2004 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Public Leadership Award was presented to U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (“who spearheaded the food-allergic community’s efforts to improve ingredient labeling of safe or unsafe manufactured food”). Robert Kennedy Jr. accepted the 2004 Moynihan award on behalf of his uncle, U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who sponsored the Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act. Le Cirque’s Sirio Maccioni presented the Joe Baum Lifetime Achievement Award to fellow restaurateur Thomas Keller, owner of Per Se, the French Laundry and Bouchon. “Every year, millions of people are affected by food allergies… hundreds of them do not survive… I applaud [the FAI] for their… commitment to spreading awareness and… to finding a cure.” Keller said.

Although not allergic to anything edible, the ball’s guest of honor, longtime FAI supporter Ronald O. Perelman, chairman and CEO, MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., touted the passion and dedication of the families behind FAI.


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