Here we were at a dinner for the Jewish Community Relations Council in the elegant ballroom of New York’s luxurious Pierre Hotel when Joel I. Klein remarked, “The fact that you can come from any zip code to this event is due to the power of education.”
It was the power of education that catapulted Klein, a product of the city’s public schools, and of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, to the role of chancellor of New York’s 1,600 public schools.
In January, Klein became CEO of the educational division of News Corp. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that Klein, after working for the city for eight years, “decided to work for a more laid-back boss, like Rupert Murdoch.”
More than 600 guests applauded, including Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr., as Klein accepted an educational visionary award from the JCRC.
President Alan S. Jaffe also presented a communal philanthropist award to Jonathan Korngold, managing director of General Atlantic equity firm, and a corporate leader award to Anthony L. Watson, chairman/CEO of EmblemHealth.
“My wife deserves this award more than I do,” Korngold said. “She’s so involved in charity that she’s going to get us straight to heaven.”
Watson also paid tribute to his wife Desiree. He acknowledged the presence of PR maven Howard Rubenstein. “We’ve been friends for 40 years,” Watson said.
Also at Watson’s table was Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, who dazzled the basketball court as a guard for the New York Knicks during the ‘70s.
Speaking of sports, Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni related a story he heard from an old friend, Ira Berkow, who retired after 28 years as a New York Times sports writer.
Berkow calls Michael Jordan to invite him to a Knicks game. He goes to the hotel to pick up Jordan. In the elevator he meets a couple.
“Sir,” Berkow says, “aren’t you the famous Abba Eban?”
“Yes, and this is my wife Susie.”
“What are you doing in downtown Cleveland of all places?”
“A rabbi is being honored and I am the guest speaker.”
Berkow can’t wait to tell Jordan. “Michael, the most incredible thing happened to me. I just met Abba Eban and he said he never heard of you!”
“Who’s Abba Eban?”