World ORT praises friends at the Conference of Presidents


A World ORT delegation joined more than 1,000 people, including former President George W Bush and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in New York yesterday to celebrate the unique contribution made to Jewish communal and national life by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations. The Honorary Chair of World ORT’s Board of Trustees, Reese Feldman, its Development Committee Chair, Judy Menikoff, and Acting Director General and CEO Sonia Gomes de Mesquita were joined by major supporters, Herb Ackerman (a member of the organisation’s Audit and Risk Committee) and his wife, and Natalie Katz at the Conference of Presidents’ 50th anniversary tribute gala.

The event also honoured the Conference’s Executive Vice Chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, for his 25 years’ service to the organisation, and the Conference of Presidents’ past seven chairmen for their contributions.

“It was important for us to be there because World ORT is a constituent member of the Conference; indeed, World ORT was highlighted during the event as among its major members,”? said Ms Feldman. “But we also wanted to be there for personal reasons: both Malcolm Hoenlein and [former Conference of Presidents chairman and current World Jewish Congress President] Ronald Lauder have long been good friends of World ORT’s and we wanted to show our appreciation and celebrate their richly deserved honours.”?

President Bush has kept a low profile since his term ended so his surprise attendance at the gala generated tremendous excitement “モ and a standing ovation. And his address made headlines for its no-nonsense assessment of Iran’s recent charm offensive.

In a brief address, UN Secretary General Ban acknowledged present threats and challenges in what is “in an era of tremendous opportunity”?. He added that, “no one “モ not Jews, Muslims or anyone else “モ should suffer or be targeted because of the creed they follow. My position is unequivocal: anti-Semitism has no place in the 21st century. Too much is at stake to allow such discrimination to persist.”?

The program also featured video testimonials from President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu all of whom praised the Conference of Presidents for its work in supporting Israel and strengthening the US-Israel relationship.

Mr Hoenlein told the fact that remarks from both presidents Obama and Bush were featured demonstrated the Conference of Presidents’ objective of “unity, with diversity.”? Unity is “the essence”? of what the Jewish umbrella is trying to accomplish, while also building respect for diversity, he explained.

“We brought all kinds of people from different points of view [to the gala],”? Mr Hoenlein said. “It was really an amazing demonstration both for the [Jewish] community’s political maturity and the importance of the community, and its sense of reach.”?

In his speech, Mr Hoenlein noted how the Jews, as a people, were concerned about their grandchildren, not just their children as many other cultures were. It was an observation which struck a chord with the World ORT delegation.

“Our educational mission may focus on children but it does so with the long term goal of instilling values and skills which will contribute to the strengthening of Jewish communities for generations to come. Tomorrow, even the day after tomorrow, starts today,”? said Ms Gomes de Mesquita.