Abe Foxman and wife Golda (left)
with George Tenet and wife Stephanie
Abe Foxman, Herman Wouk and
wife Sarah, Henry Kissinger
Abe Foxman, Dwayne Andreas,
Mayor Rudy Giuliani proclaims
ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE Story By Tim Boxer
Loads Of Laughs At Tribute For ADL Director Abraham Foxman
Photos By Sharon Stern
HEN Abraham H. Foxman was planning to mark his professional bar mitzvah – his 13th year as national director of the Anti-Defamation League – he asked his friend, Henry Kissinger, to emcee. “It’s just a little dinner,” Abe assured him.
It took a little effort on the part of the former secretary of state to open the program as 1,272 of Abe’s intimate pals thronged the Waldorf-Astoria’s festive Grand Ballroom to pay tribute to a man who’s devoted his life to the cause of justice, harmony and brotherhood by seeking to eradicate discrimination, bias and hatred.
“You won’t get fed if you’re not quiet,” Kissinger told the festive crowd.
After he made mention of his flight from Germany, where 30 family members later perished in the Holocaust, Kissinger introduced the first of a long line of well-wishers.
There was Mayor Rudy Giuliani, very busy running a senate campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton who is often described as a Johnny-come-lately on the New York political scene
He bounded onstage carrying a bit of levity.
Actually he was carrying a plaque. “I was prepared to give this to Abe,” Hizzoner said, “but I found out he’s from New Jersey. He’s a carpetbagger!”
A roar of laughter resounded from such worthies as Andrew Tisch, Malcolm Hoenlein, Arnold Forster, Murray Koppelman, Gershon Kekst, Malcolm Thomson, Jack and Lewis Rudin and others.
“We gotta kid around just a little bit,” Rudy insisted. “This was getting too serious.”
Even though the honoree resides in New Jersey, the mayor relented and declared this Abraham H. Foxman Day in New York City.
Jesse Jackson tempered his remarks with a sober recollection of the Jewish participation in the civil rights struggle. He called Foxman “a symbol of hope and healing, not hate and hostility,” and added, “We are bound by shared blood.”
Sen. Charles Schumer said when he spoke at Hadassah, a lady gave him a piece of advice: “Remember the three B’s of good speaking: be sincere, be brief, and be seated.”
So he quickly gave way to CIA director George Tenet who asked, “What’s a Greek kid from Queens doing here? What does the ADL have to do with the CIA?”
I wondered too, until Tenet explained that ADL works closely with the CIA (and FBI) in combating terrorism and in other areas of American security.
Tenet said he searched for a word to describe his relationship with Foxman and found it in the ancient Greek word, rabbi.
“According to Leo Rosten, rabbi means my teacher. Abe, that is what you’ve been to me. Not only have you taught me the tenets of Judaism, but you interpreted Judaism to Tenet.”
He should have stopped there with his attempt at wit, but the director sallied forth with a word about Foxman’s cordial personality.
“When Abe came to Washington,” Tenet said, “he gave me a hug and a kiss, and it felt good. Nobody hugs and kisses in Washington. Well, almost nobody.”
That cracked up all the VIPs in the audience, including Yaakov Agam, Mortimer Zuckerman, Roy Innis, Bess Myerson, Daniel Pipes, Ruth Popkin, among many more.
“I did not intend it that way,” Tenet said meekly. “Oh boy!” he exclaimed, hinting that he’s in trouble with his boss, Bill Clinton.
There were many more speeches, live from Herman Wouk and Dr. Ruth Westheimer, as well as videotaped appearances by Teddy Kollek, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton.
Mercifully, at this point the waiters came out on the floor. After the dinner break, the emcee resumed: “You may have forgotten me. I am Henry Kissinger. I started the program a week ago.”
Finally, Foxman got to respond. Although he may counsel the CIA and FBI, and hold meetings with the movers and shakers of the universe, at home it’s a different story.
He mentioned that on one of his numerous missions, he called Golda, his wife of 33 years. He told her the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia had addressed him as “Your Highness,” and Yasir Arafat referred to him as “Your Excellency.”
There was a slight pause before Golda spoke: “Sweetheart, leave it at the airport.”