President Donald Trump did not attend the National Council of Young Israel annual gala dinner last Sunday in Manhattan. But if he did, it was an affair where he would have certainly felt at home. At each table were red baseball caps emblazoned with the slogan “Build Israel Great Again.”
The headliners represented the circle of supporters who stood by the president during the multiple investigations since his inauguration. With Special Counsel Robert Mueller failing to implicate Trump as colluding with Russia to favor his election, House Republican Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee were in a celebratory mood as they spoke of Trump’s foreign policy achievements concerning Israel and presenting their colleague Tommy Hicks Jr. with the Guardian of Israel Award. “Just come help us win in 2020. We have the best president ever. Wherever you have friends, please come get them working,” said Hicks. “We have to win in 2020. It’s the most important thing in our life.”
In a mood befitting Adar, dinner participants knew for whom to cheer and jeer. Trump received a rousing applause while Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were booed when their names were mentioned. “For the first time in our history, the Jewish people have a real friend in the White House,” said dinner chairman Yechezkel Moskowitz. “President Trump is the most benevolent leader the Jewish people have ever known in their 2,000 years in their Diaspora, believe me.”
He did not shy from pointing out Jewish opponents of Trump who were targeted in his recent tweets. “We’ve allowed Torah-true values to come under question or worse. We’ve allowed them to be replaced with the leftist progressive tikun olam ideology.”
Other high-profile Trump supporters included dinner emcee Pete Hegseth (a host at Fox News Channel), presidential attorney Rudy Giuliani, and online writer Jack Posobiec. The dinner was not exclusively a one-party affair as Rep. Max Rose was in attendance. The freshman Democrat’s district covers Staten Island and parts of southern Brooklyn, historically Republican and certainly not as liberal as some of his better-known freshman party colleagues. Brooklyn Councilman Kalman Yeger also received cheers from participants for tweeting last week that “Palestine does not exist.” For speaking his mind on a political fact, he was expelled from the Immigration Committee on the City Council this past Monday. Queens Assemblyman David Weprin was also in attendance at the dinner.
In some ways the gathering was a reunion for political activists who also support similar causes, such as American Friends of Bet El and Ateret Cohanim, which build and strengthen the Jewish presence beyond the former Green Line. Florida resident Laurie Moskowitz Hirsch is the daughter of Irving Moskowitz, a developer who purchased Arab properties in eastern Jerusalem for Jewish families. Rabbi Yechezkel Moskowitz is his grandson.
The dinner’s Chovevei Zion honorees Igor Fruman and Lev & Svetlana Parnas also reside in Florida and have ties to President Trump, as donors and high-profile supporters.
The rabbinic awards went to two Queens residents: Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld and Rabbi Zvi Gluck. Besides being the rav of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and the Rabbinic Consultant and a columnist of this newspaper, Rabbi Schonfeld is also the vice president of the Coalition for Jewish Values, a rabbinic group of over 1,000 Orthodox rabbis that is not shy to take public positions on controversial matters that the more established organizations tend to avoid. Rabbi Gluck is the founder of Amudim, which provides crisis assistance to individuals suffering from drug addiction and domestic abuse.
Four World War II veterans also appeared on stage, honored for their sacrifices to the country while living their lives as Jews. Stanley Feltman survived his bomber’s crash in the Pacific Ocean, where he floated for hours in a dinghy with six comrades, as sharks encircled them. Paul Kaye also served in the Pacific theater towards the end of the war but then went on to another heroic role assisting the Haganah in smuggling Holocaust survivors to British Palestine ahead of its independence as the Jewish state. Edmund Rosenblum participated in the D Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France and lectures at Adelphi University on his war experiences.
Louis Goldstein, 97, also fought in the Pacific, chasing Japanese submarines. Dinner Vice-Chair Dr. Joseph Frager is his son-in-law, noting that like many patriotic Jewish veterans, he did not wait for the draft notice. “He enlisted,” said Frager. These veterans are all in their 90s, the few survivors from an army of millions who stood before 850 dinner guests to speak on how they confronted fascism and ensured freedom for other democracies, this country, and the Jewish people.
Frager, a Queens Jewish Link columnist, was very much visible at the dinner, having brought together many of the honorees. “It was a truly historic dinner,” he said. When it comes to hakaras ha’tov to the president, for his recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, among other examples, no amount of honor should be withheld. When other Jewish organizations exercise caution, Frager gives honor when it is due.
By Sergey Kadinsky