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No. 115 / 2017

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Power Benefits

Sam Domb and Michael Steinhardt
Sam Domb and Michael Steinhardt
Judy and Michael Steinhardt
Judy and Michael Steinhardt
Michael Steinhardt, Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald and Sam Domb
Michael Steinhardt, Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald and Sam Domb
Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald greets Karen and David Eisner
Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald greets Karen and David Eisner

Dr. Joseph and Karen Frager
Dr. Joseph and Karen Frager

Outreach Program Celebrates
25th Anniversary at St. Regis

O reconnect Jews worldwide with their faith, in 1987 Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, formerly of New York’s Lincoln Square Synagogue, founded the National Jewish Outreach Program., Prominent hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt donated $1.5 million to jumpstart the organization that helps Jews rediscover the principles of Judaism and learn how to engage in Jewish ritual.

Steinhardt, the world’s most famous Jewish atheist, perhaps thought NJOP was focused too heavily on religion. In 1999 he rallied millionaire Charles Bronfman to create an alternate heritage program called Birthright Israel. They have hosted 400,000 young Jews on free 10-day tours of Israel that hopefully will rekindle interest in Jewish life and history. "Making secular Jews proud to be Jews is an extraordinary thing," Steinhardt said.

Over the years Buchwald attracted other philanthropists, most notably real estate maven Sam Domb. At the 25th annual NJOP dinner this month, Buchwald honored Domb as NJOP’s largest single contributor, having given or raised $3 million.

"I want to correct you, rabbi," Domb declared. He fished a check out of his inner pocket and declared, "The total amount is now $3,100,000."

Domb has rescued several New York synagogues from disrepair and helped one Jew after another rediscover the routine observance of Jewish faith. He is not deterred that his goal might be unattainable. He illustrated with a story about a boy on the beach who picked up one starfish after another and tossed it back in the water. "What are you doing?’ a man asked. "I’m saving the starfish," the boy said. "But you can’t save them all," the man said. "You see this one?" the boy said as he tossed a fish in to the water. "This one I saved."

Buchwald invited Steinhardt to engage in an after-dinner conversation which quickly morphed into a theological smackdown moderated by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.

Telushkin, the notable author/lecturer, kindly granted that Steinhardt, the avowed Jewish atheist, is "very concerned about the survival of the Jewish people."

Sitting in the middle, Steinhardt looked left at Buchwald, then turned right at Telushkin, and offered a history lesson: "Being an atheist and being a good Jew is not inconsistent. Israel has a very large number of atheists. A very substantial number of our coreligionists have been atheists – Freud and Einstein among them."

Some 200 guests held their breath as Steinhardt went on: "You don’t have to believe in the Red Sea parting – that’s meshugas. You don’t have to believe in a god that sits on a cloud."

The evening ended on a high note as it was announced that the dinner raised $1.1 million for the National Jewish Outreach Program.


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