Saluting Israel’s Advocate
On His 90th Birthday
By TIM BOXER
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
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
Steinberg’s daughters, Lisa, a
corporate lawyer, and Mara, a schoolteacher, organized the
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.”
“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.”