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Malcolm Thomson, left, Ingeborg Rennert and
Dr. Paul LeClerc

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Ira Leon Rennert

Dr.Judith Ginsberg and husband Dr. Paul LeClerc

Gail and Ephraim Propp

History is Going Digital
But Not Our Century

Text and Photos by Tim Boxer

NGEBORG RENNERT as president and Malcolm Thomson as co-chairman have forged a dynamic business relationship at American Friends of the Open University of Israel. At the annual dinner at New York’s Plaza Hotel, Thomson regaled 200 guests, raising $400,000 for the university’s new campus that serves 45,000 students on the Internet, which is becoming the classroom of the 21st century.

Rennert, speaking in French, presented the Yigal Allon Award to Dr. Paul LeClerc, a Voltaire scholar and president of the New York Public Library.

LeClerc, responding in English, envisioned a near future when thousands of letters between leading figures of European, British and American enlightenments will be digitally available to students and scholars. However, books printed over the past century will not soon be available.

The copyright regime of the European Union prohibits digitizing works after 1863 without permission of the rights holders, while the U.S. cutoff date is 1923.

"The print output of the modern era is off-limits from a digital standpoint until rights holders and online providers come to an agreement. For those who think that all of the world’s information will be available soon online and that libraries and archives will no longer be relevant are, to put it gently, more than a little naïve."

Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert, who have already contributed $10 million, pledge an additional $3 million towards a new building at the campus in Ranana.

Thomson told about art collector Joseph Hirschhorn who bought an early Picasso. During lunch at his home in Cap D’Antibes, France, Hirschhorn asked his neighbor Picasso to authenticate the painting.

Picasso held the painting to the light, studied the brush stroke, took a fleck of paint and put it in his mouth, snapped his finger on the back of the linen canvas, rubbed his hand across his mouth and declared, "It’s a fake, a forgery, but a good forgery."

Several years later Hirschhorn wanted to buy another Picasso and invited the art dealer to join him for lunch with his neighbor, Picasso. He asked the artist to authenticate the painting.

Picasso went through the same routine – hold the painting up to the light, put a fleck of paint in the mouth, etc. – and pronounced it "a fake, a forgery, but a good forgery."

The dealer was indignant. "Maestro," he exclaimed, "I saw you paint this myself!"

Picasso turned to Hirschhorn and said, "Sometimes I paint fakes."


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