Sylvia Miles

Saluting Israel’s Advocate
On His 90th Birthday


YLVIA MILES just returned from a month at the Edinburgh Festival where she presented her one-woman show, It’s Me, Sylvia – Live and on Film. She rushed over to the Tuscan Restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to salute Harry Steinberg on his 90th birthday.

Miles joined Fritz Weaver and 75 other guests in toasting Steinberg who, 40 years ago, founded Writers and Artists for Peace in the Middle East.

Harry would organize public forums where celebrities such Tony Randall, Shelley Winters, Cynthia Ozick, Liv Ullman, Paul Sorvino, Eli Wallach, Weaver, Miles and many others drew media attention with a balanced view of Israel that countered the negative reports in the popular press.

While working for 25 years for the American Zionist Federation, trying to present Israel’s cause in a positive light, Steinberg came up with idea of conducting media tours to Israel for communications executives and public opinion molders who would experience Israel first-hand. He led more than 20 such press tours in which some 500 press, TV and radio personalities participated.

Steinberg’s daughters, Lisa, a corporate lawyer, and Mara, a schoolteacher, organized the birthday salute.

They related how their father came from Seattle to be in the first graduating college of Yeshiva College in 1932.

At 5’6” he was on the starting basketball team, “a sign of either his prowess as a shooting guard or, more likely, the college’s lack of more qualified players.”

In the 1940s Dr. Abba Hillel Silver, a Reform rabbi and Zionist leader, sent Steinberg to Hollywood to enlist the support of the movie industry in persuading Central American governments to vote for the Palestine Partition Plan at the UN in 1947.

The three countries that he sought to influence – Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua – all voted in favor of the resolution that created the Jewish state.

After everyone sang Happy Birthday, Steinberg left them with a story about a weary man on the road. The man pulled into a diner and told the waiter, “I’m tired and depressed, so I can use a nice bowl of soup.”

“Anything else?”

“A few kind words.”

The waiter brings the soup and walks off.

“Wait a minute,” the man said. “Where are the few kind words?”

The waiter leaned over and whispered, “Don’t eat the soup.”

After a wave of chuckles, Steinberg added: “I’m already planning for my 100th birthday. If you are still here, you’re invited.”

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