Jacob Ostreicher and Sean Penn
Shmuley Boteach and Michael Steinhardt
Shmuley Boteach and his mother Eleanor
Deborah and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach with
Rhoda and Israel Ambassador Ron Dermer
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach signs
one of his
more popular books
David Sterling, dinner committee
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and
Rwanda Ambassador Eugene Gasana
Sheldon Adelson and Dr. Miriam Adelson,
Israel Ambassador Ron and Rhoda Dermer, and
General Ido Aharoni
Jacob Ostreicher (right) with Larry
Memmott, former State Dept. charge díaffaires in La Paz,
and his wife Tatyana (left) and daughter Alexandra. Memmott visited Ostreicher in the notorious
Ilan Greenfield of Geffen Publishing
presents new Holocaust book,
And Every Single One Was Someone,
to Ambassador Ron Dermer
Cindy Adams, New York Post gossip
columnist, awaits celebrity arrivals
Sean Penn Rescues
Trapped In Bolivian Prison
EAN PENN, the actor acclaimed by Rabbi Shmuley
Boteach as a hero for providing 60,000 people with housing
after the devastating Haiti earthquake of 2010, was honored by
the rabbi for going further to save an entire world by rescuing
one Brooklyn Jew from unjust imprisonment in Bolivia.
Boteach paid tribute to the twice
Oscar winner at the second annual Champions of Jewish Values
gala sponsored by his organization, This World: The Values
Network, in May at Cipriani 42nd St. in Manhattan. At
an evening of Jewish values, the rabbi praised Penn as an actor
who "does more humanitarian work than any Hollywood celebrity
aliveóand I will defend him."
Penn noted that innocent people around
the globe sit in prisons as political pawns. "They are Israeli,
they are Palestinian, they are American, Cuban, Afghani,
And then there is Jacob "Yanky"
Ostreicher, 54, owner of a flooring firm in Brooklyn who
invested in a rice farming venture in Bolivia and ended up in an
infamous rotting prison.
On a visit to the rice farm in 2011
Ostreicher found that a Colombian woman, managing the
enterprise, was skimming cash from the investors. Before he
could pursue the matter, Ostreicher was charged with money
laundering. He spent 18 months in a dangerous filthy prison,
trying to figure out what happened. He weighed less than 110
pounds, barely able to hold his own body. He felt he was at the
fringe of death.
Aleph Institute, a Chabad prison
chaplaincy in Surfside, Florida, reached out to Sean Penn to
help liberate Ostreicher from captivity.
Penn insisted that his own Jewish
connection was not a factor in agreeing to bring hope to
Ostreicher, an American Orthodox Jew. (Seanís father was film
director Leo Penn, son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants.
Seanís mother, Eileen Ryan, was Catholic of Irish/Italian
He emphasized that he did not spring
to action because "my fatherís family is Jewish and Iím
committed to an insular tribal protection."
While he feels "a strong embrace of my
Irish/Italian roots, and my Lithuanian roots, and my patriotism
as an American," he acted because Ostreicher was one of "those
political among the human brotherhood trapped where I had some
regional access and we are obligated to move hopelessness to
Penn said that Ostreicher was
"railroaded by a corrupt Bolivian judiciary" and "trapped in a
place where I had regional access."
Due to his ties to the late Venezuela
President Hugo Chavez, Penn was able to meet with
Bolivian President Evo Morales. Penn met with Ostreicher
and told him, "Stay strong. Not only do I know youíre innocent,
but Iíve spoken with the president and they all know youíre
Ostreicher was transferred to house
arrest in Santa Cruz. From there it became a covert operation to
spirit the man out of the country.
Ostreicher revealed these details at
the New York awards dinner, saying that when he landed on
American soil, Penn "was the first man to greet me. He put me up
in a 5-star hotel and then brought me into his home, gave me a
warm bed, and a refrigerator stocked with kosher food. He sat
with me for hours, sometimes all night. He gave me his white
shirt, black suit and black shoes. He even took me to synagogue
and sat by my side as I attended Friday night services for the
first time in three years."
Boteach presented the Champion of
Jewish Justice Award to Penn, saying he "disagreed vehemently
with Penn in the past on a range of issues" but what he did for
Ostreicher "blew my mind and in the spirit of gratitude, I must
Penn said, "Why did I help Jacob
Ostreicher? Because it is the right thing to do."
Boteachís organization also presented
Champion of Jewish Values awards to Ron Dermer, Israeli
ambassador to the U.S.; Cory A. Booker, U.S. senator from
Illinois; philanthropists Judy and Michael Steinhardt;
and human rights activist John Prendergast.
The rabbi pleaded with the audience
not to disrupt the awards presentation by talking. "Sounds like
the Knesset," Dermer said.
Among the guests were New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie, Texas Governor Rick Perry,
Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, womenís activist Ayaan
Hirsi Ali, and law professor Alan Dershowitz.
Dershowitz recalled a trip to Israel
to escape a snowy day in New York. He was having dinner at Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahuís home when it started to
snow in Jerusalem.
"We couldnít leave," Dershowitz said.
"The mayor had decreed that no car can be on the street unless
itís a four-wheel drive. Bibi called Ron Dermer, his senior
adviser at the time, who had a four-wheel drive and got us