It was a family affair on March 29 as Manhattan Jewish Experience held its 12th annual dinner at the Museum of Jewish Heritage with Amy and Michael Wildes as guests of honor.
Rabbi Mark Wildes, founding director of the wildly popular outreach organization, paid tribute to his brother Michael as their father, Leon Wildes, beamed with nachas.
Michael recently completed two terms as mayor of Englewood, N.J. He is now a managing partner at his father’s office, Wildes and Weinberg, a leading immigration law firm in Manhattan.
Leon is known, among other accomplishments, for representing John Lennon in the 1970s when the FBI harassed him and Nixon tried to deport him for his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War. Leon successfully secured a Green Card for Lennon, which allowed him to stay in the country.
Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, has been friends with Leon ever since. At Michael’s bar mitzvah, she called to apologize that she couldn’t come as her son Sean was suffering from an earache.
Michael and Mark founded Manhattan Jewish Experience in memory of their late mother Ruth. Yoko was an early supporter.
“Yoko has donated over the years,” Michael said. “She was close to my mother.”
Michael served as attorney for the last three Miss Universes, as well as soccer legend Pele. He got Pele a visa in March, enabling him to work with the New York Cosmos. Two months ago he got a Green Card for Sarah Brightman, wife of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
At the dinner Rabbi Mark Wildes also honored Elaine Gold, Michael Dodes, Rochel Leah and Ariel Deitcher, and Jessie and David Brand.
Founded in 1998, MJE has reconnected hundreds of young people with their Jewish heritage. It was also the catalyst for more than 85 marriages.
Tim Boxer is editor of 15MinutesMagazine.com.