The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Fund held a gala dinner to celebrate five decades of leadership and achievement. The gala was held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. President George W. Bush closed out the evening with a surprise keynote address.
The Honorable Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General, addressed the gala, which was attended by 1,200 guests, including many ambassadors, officials, and guests from Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa, and prominent personalities from every sector of American society. The UN Secretary General announced his plan to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in the near future.
The program opened with video messages from President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that stressed the importance of the Conference of Presidents in national and international affairs. Special guests Raul de Molina, Univision’s Emmy Award-winning co-host of El Gordo y la Flaca, and Holly Robinson Peete, actress, offered reflections on their trips to Israel with the Conference of Presidents’ “America’s Voices in Israel” program.
Among those offering brief toasts were the former Chief Rabbi of Syria Rabbi Avraham Hamra; a leader of the Egyptian Coptic community; former Deputy Prime Minister of Iran Mohsen Sazegara; Pastor John Hagee (founder of Christians United for Israel); Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance; the Ambassador-at-Large and head of the Moroccan Jewish community, Serge Berdugo; and the Ambassador of Russia to the United States, Sergei Kislyak.
The evening ended with a moving rendition of both the American and Israeli national anthems, led by Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot of Park East Synagogue.
The chairmen of the Presidents Conference from the past 20 years were recognized for their dedication, with the Strength Through Unity award. A special tribute was paid to Malcolm Hoenlein for his contributions to the Conference as executive vice-president since June 1986. He was presented his Strength Through Unity by several of his grandchildren as other presenters cited Mr. Hoenlein’s essential role in international relations, Israel and Middle East affairs, Soviet and World Jewry, anti-terrorism, the American Jewish community, and intergroup relations.
Melvin Salberg served as chairman during 1997–1999. Mr. Salberg works as senior counsel in the labor and employment law group of Anderson Kill’s New York City office. His award was presented by former Canadian Minister of Justice and Member of Parliament, Honorable Irwin Cotler.
Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder served as chairman during 1999–2001. Mr. Lauder was the United States ambassador to Austria in 1986–1987 and deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO affairs from 1983 to 1986. He now chairs Clinique Laboratories. Lauder has served as president of the World Jewish Congress since June 2007. His award was presented by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, who suggested that the Conference receive the next Nobel Peace Prize.
Mortimer B. Zuckerman served as chairman during 2001–2003. Zuckerman is the cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Boston Properties, one of the largest real-estate investment trusts in the United States. Zuckerman is also the owner and publisher of the New York Daily News and of U.S. News and World Report, where he is editor-in-chief. His award was presented by Undersecretary of the United Nations and Chair of the Peace Institute Terje Roed-Larsen.
James S. Tisch served as chairman during 2003–2005. Since 1998, Mr. Tisch has been the president and CEO of Loews Corporation. Mr. Tisch is a chairman of WNET. He formerly served as director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He also sits on the boards of the New York Public Library, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and the Partnership for New York City, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His award was presented by former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman.
Harold Tanner served as chairman during 2005–2007. He is president of Tanner & Co., Inc., a private investment banking firm he founded in New York City in 1987. Mr. Tanner has been a member of Cornell University’s Board of Trustees since 1982 and serves as President of the American Jewish Committee, a Trustee of the Revson Foundation and Classroom, Inc., and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His award was presented by ranking House Foreign Relations member Congressman Eliot Engel.
June Walker served as chairwoman during 2007–2008. She was also a member of AIPAC’s Executive Committee. Until July 2007, she was the national president of Hadassah. President George W. Bush appointed Walker to serve on the Honorary Delegation to accompany him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008.
Alan P. Solow served as chairman during 2009–2011. He is a partner at DLA Piper’s bankruptcy group based in Chicago. He is a past chair of the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America. His award was presented by Counsel General of Israel, Ambassador Ido Aharoni
Richard B. Stone served as chairman during 2011–2013. He is a professor of law at Columbia University, where he has held the Wilbur Friedman Chair in Tax Law since 1991. He serves as a managing director of Sunrise Securities Corporation. Professor Stone was appointed assistant solicitor general of the United States and serves as the chairman of the board at Espro Acoustiguide Group. His award was presented by the new Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer. v