Friday, August 12, 2016

Don't Count A Candidate Or A Baseball Team Out -- Comeback Players of Other Years




Harry Truman trailed Thomas Dewey by five points in the final Gallup Poll of 1948.

The New York Giants fell 13 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers in the summer of 1951 [in August].

I somehow passed geometry in ninth grade.

Stories of extraordinary comebacks are woven lovingly into the American tapestry. A few stand out as legend. Y’know why? Because they don’t happen all the time.

On August 11, 2016, a former [Republican] Speaker of the House invoked Truman ultimately defeating Dewey to suggest his favored presidential candidate of the moment isn’t necessarily in fatal electoral trouble. [How much have you to bet Newt?] “Usually,” a trenchant Twitter observer countered, “the part of the campaign death rattle where partisans cite Truman & 1948 comes later.”

That this extreme example emerged on the 65th anniversary of the sure-thing Dodgers expanding their lead over the Giants to its largest margin of the 1951 season may be an innocent coincidence or a harbinger of god-knows-what. That it also arrived on the very same day the Mets seemed to implicitly concede their 2016 campaign — or at least suspend active pursuit of the second National League Wild Card — perhaps reminds us how infrequently extraordinary comebacks come together.

I’m no geometrician, but the only angle I see that will connect the Mets to the playoffs is the line about it not being over till it’s over — which, conveniently, was drawn up in-house at Shea Stadium, so we have every right to cling to it. Again, though, that’s the stuff of legend. The stuff of legend doesn’t pop up every day.

You know who pops up every day? Met batters. They also strike out, ground out, fly out, and, if appearances are any indication, give up easily. I doubt they’re consciously throwing in the towel or waving the white flag, as both actions would require effort, but their collective demeanor does not inspire faithful fervor, let alone a modicum of confidence

On Thursday afternoon, the Mets lost to the Diamondbacks, 9-0. Noah Syndergaard wasn’t great. Jon Niese wasn’t good. The offense wasn’t present. I’d make the forfeit joke, but it’s been made already. I didn’t think we’d descend into are they even trying? territory in 2016, but their manager sort of went there in his postgame remarks, so we as mere fans don’t have to be overly polite.
The Mets looked beaten against the D’Backs the way lousy teams looked beaten against the Mets a year ago. Arizona, despite stealing away like the love child of Ron LeFlore and Robbie Dupree, is not roaring toward a Western Division title in case you were wondering. They reveled in a delightful (for them) three games at Citi Field, but otherwise they’ve endured a dreadful season. The Mets, meanwhile, front-loaded their joy into April and selected portions of May, June and earliest July. They’ve been nothing but dour since.

The “won” and “lost” columns contain absolutely equal quantities: 57 apiece. The Mets were nine games over .500 on July 7. They are nine games under .500 five weeks later. There’s a law of averages lurking somewhere inside those numbers, but a team that is 0-7 in its last seven one-run games seems determined to find a way to not win every chance it gets. They have famously not directly followed one win with another in more than a month and haven’t taken any of the past five series they’ve played.

Their relative proximity to the Wild Card — three games as of this writing with 48 to play (or ten games closer to Miami than old New York was to Brooklyn with 44 to go) — continues to tantalize, at least until you watch them conduct their on-field affairs for a month. The best that you can do between the moon and sullen Citi is attempt to conjure a scenario in which a procession of healed and hearty Mets march forth from the DL and into the lineup, proceeding to power themselves and their simultaneously rejuvenated teammates to heights the lot of them had forgotten they were capable of reaching. Reyes comes back, Cespedes comes back, Cabrera comes back, Wheeler comes back, the whole darn shootin’ match comes back. The Marlins, the Cardinals and the Pirates all find themselves stuck in the completive mud while the Mets hijack the first hovercraft they see and whoosh right by them.

It could happen. It could. It probably won’t, but it would be irresponsible of us not to entertain such a fantasy, just as it would be negligent of us to not consider that three out with 48 to play is simply another plot point on the downward graph that will have us six out with 42 to play, 10 out with 35 to play, whatever out with however many to play until sub-mediocrity lands upon its inevitable level.
You can blame the manager, because managers are hired to be blamed. You can absolve the manager, because though the manager wears a uniform, he does not swing ineffectually, pitch without fluidity or forget to go through the motions of holding opposing base runners on. It’s probably partly Terry Collins’s doing that the Mets have been avoiding awesomeness for weeks on end, though it was probably also probably partly Terry Collins’s doing that the Mets soared above most of the N.L. pack for a spell. I almost wish I could rub two rhetorical sticks together and offer you a flaming hot take on the matter. All I will tell you is I don’t take other people’s livelihoods lightly, thus I’m probably not temperamentally suited to lead a #Fire Terry torch patrol. Then again, I’m not exactly prepared to go all Tiananmen Square in his defense.

If the Mets as currently constituted were good enough to not be swept soundly by the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks, any manager could have guided them to a 1-2 record in their past three games. They’re not that good. Maybe they will be before it gets too late. Truman caught Dewey. The Giants caught the Dodgers. I eked out a 70 on the New York State Geometry Regents of June 1978, which served as my adolescence’s veritable Shot Heard Round the World. I wasn’t a witness to the first two miracles, but I can assure you I wouldn’t have bet an isosceles nickel on myself with 48 days to go in that particular school year.


Yet here I am today, complaining about the Mets, just like I did in ninth grade. Yes, that Regents Diploma really took me a long way.
 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Greatest Fund Raising Event of All Time


 


 

The Greatest Fund Raising Event of All Time


Background Leading Up to The Event
I was born in early January 1936 so I was old enough to form vivid memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In fact I can remember exactly where I was and what took place. With some friends, I was at the movies in the Kingsbridge movie house on Kingsbridge Rd in the Bronx. The film suddenly stopped, the house and stage lights went on, and the “matron” (that particular movie house always had a sort of headmistress - a very stern woman in a white dress - who stood guard, so to speak, keeping kids in line and maintaining order) strode onto the stage and announced that “the Japs” had bombed Pearl Harbor. I think it was from that moment on, by the way, and throughout the duration of the war, that the operative name of our enemy was usually “the Japs" as opposed to “the Japanese." (Certainly we didn't call it “The Second World War” until, I don't recall when, but sometime much later and probably well after the war ended in 1945) Everyone referred to our terrible enemies across the Atlantic Ocean interchangeably as either “the Germans,” “the Nazis” or “Hitler’s army.”

I am mentioning all of this because I'd like to make clear to you that my memory of when I was a five year-old is still very clear to me. In fact I have very clear memories from an even earlier age.

One of those memories is that we always had a small blue and white “JNF” (Jewish National Fund) metal donation-box in our apartment. I recall that my parents, and sometimes I, were always putting some coins into that box. The money was sent to Palestine “to help the Jews.” During the war years I think the money was also sent to people in Europe, Jews who we referred to as “refugees,” who were starving. (It was typical in those days that when children wouldn’t eat all their food, parents would remind them to eat because, “There are people starving in Europe.”) Of course it turned out that while there may have been some Jews and maybe other people being helped, what we didn't know until the end of the war was that these poor “refugees” were people who were being rounded up night and day by the Nazis and sent to their deaths in concentration camps in what came to be known, after the war, as the Holocaust. I have often wondered, but never investigated, where the coins collected in the JNF boxes from Jewish homes all over this country actually went.

Upon starting DeWitt Clinton High School in September 1949 I learned that this Bronx public school would be the first one in New York City, and probably in the county (possibly in the world) to offer Hebrew as a second language, alongside French, German, Italian, Spanish and Latin. Since Israel had just become a country, Hebrew, for the first time, was considered a living language and would be taught in a public school. I, of course, immediately enrolled and took three years of Hebrew course classes. Please don’t ask me why I am unable today to speak more than a few words of Hebrew. (e.g. the response to ma shalomachaw - how are you, we were taught was, shalom lee -- I am fine, but this today only gets you laughed at because it is archaic language and no one speaks this way today, it is not the colloquial Hebrew of this day)


By telling you all of this, the key point I want to make is that, from a very early age, I understood that it was very important, indeed that we had an obligation in general, to help Jews around the world and, in particular, to help Palestine which we always thought was the Jewish country, though of course it was not actually a country. Throughout my childhood the belief that Palestine would become a Jewish country seemed only to be a dream in our family; a hope, as far as I knew, of Jews everywhere. There was even a prayer, especially recited in our synagogue and all synagogues, for there to one day be a Jewish homeland, i.e. a Jewish country.

In May 1948 that prayer was finally answered. The United Nations voted to partition Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and an international zone around Jerusalem. The Jewish homeland was recognized and the State of Israel was born. After a bloody war with the Arabs who immediately invaded Israel in what came to be known as The War of Independence, the Palestinians (which is what the Jews were called at that time) had a country of their own to build. Two puzzling oddities remain; Israel became a country but was called a "State," and all the "Palestinians" overnight became "Israelis" while the Arabs suddenly were called the Palestinians.

1966 Visit to Israel

Since 1948 I always wanted to make a trip to Israel. However, I was only twelve years old when the nation was born and, more to the point, the cost of such a trip was not something my parents could afford. So, once I became an adult and established in my own right, I finally felt I could afford to satisfy this longtime desire. In August 1966 I told my five-month pregnant wife, “We are going to Israel.” Our first-ever trip abroad was not going to be to Europe, as most of my friends were doing, but much further, to the land of my long-held thoughts and dreams; Israel.

I procured a copy of Israel on Five Dollars a Day as our guidebook, purchased tickets on a four-engine propeller-driven El Al airliner, booked a room at the Tel Aviv Hilton (one of the only two big hotels in Tel Aviv; the other being the Sheraton) and arranged to rent a car at the airport. Off we went for three weeks, with a plan to drive all through the country to which we were drawn and where we knew not a single person.

We took off on a very hot day in August and arrived about 12 hours later on an even hotter day in Tel Aviv. The plane was noisy -- if you can remember what four-propeller engines sound like you’ll remember them as very noisy and that they cause entire plane to vibrate jarringly. We sat window-side in three-across seats. I sat in the middle seat next to a chap named Shapiro (inexplicably, he pronounced his name Sháp-a-row), a furrier from Philadelphia, who had made a reverse-aliyah from Israel to the US at the age of 17 or 18 - I think he was at the time in his late thirties - and was returning to Israel to visit family for the first time. When we neared Israel he asked me if I would carry a movie camera he had purchased for the trip until we got through customs. He wanted me to give the camera to his brother in case he, Shapiro, was detained. It seems he was afraid that, since he never served in the IDF (Israeli military), it was possible that he would not be allowed into the country unless he went into the army, which he was not prepared to do. Long story short, they detained him and told us they were putting him on a plane back to the States unless he agreed to military service, which he did not.

Another thing happened to us on the plane. The last several hours before you arrive in Israel the plane flies over the nothing but water; the Mediterranean Sea. In due course of the last hours of a long twelve-hour trip it came to pass that suddenly we saw land. What happened at that point was that my eyes watered up, tears streamed down my cheeks, and I was filled with unexplained emotion. The same thing happened not only to my wife but probably to just about everyone aboard that plane. On my next trip, which wasn't until 26 years later, in 1992, the same thing happened to me. Since that time I've made some ten more trips to Israel and each time I continue to have the same tearful experience. Understand of course that these are wonderful, joy-filled tears, not tears of sadness. My wife Barbara has made more than twice as many trips to Israel as I have and she too constantly tears up upon citing land, the Land, the Promised Land, the land of Israel.

A few words about what Israel looked like in 1966. The Shalom Meir Tower, completed just the year before was, at 34 floors, the only high-rise building in Tel Aviv and thus the tallest building in all of Israel and, in fact, in the entire Middle East. All the rest of Tel Aviv comprised two-story buildings and most roads to anywhere you wanted to go were sand roads; all cars were covered with sand dust.

In Jerusalem we stayed at the famous King David Hotel about which there is so much history to be told. One can easily look the history up on the Internet so I won’t comment further here. But I will tell you the experience we had upon being led by the bellhop into our hotel room. He opened the drapes covering glass doors opening to a balcony. Stepping onto the balcony we could see the lawn and garden below, behind the hotel. At the rear of the garden was a stone wall and beyond that, a large area with a barbed wire fence. Further beyond, over a distance the equivalent of several New York City blocks, was an area of sand and stones and rocks and lots of garbage. This was Jordanian territory, I realized. Beyond that we could see the walled, Old City of Jerusalem which, of course, was in Jordan, and the old Hebrew University grounds on Mt Scopus, to which Israel sent a weekly truck “caravan” because the University was occupied by a small body of Jewish police and caretakers. Each week a driver and two women (one of whom was Katharine Falk, who invited us to dinner at her very fashionable Jerusalem home, to which the legionary mayor Teddy Kollek brought all visiting dignitaries, but more importantly was the sister of Rudolph Sonneborn who I will tell you more about later) and maybe a policeman, went through the Mandelbaum Gate, past the Jordanian Guard post, and up the mountain to the University buildings. Over time (years) they smuggled every single book out of the University library by hiding them in their undergarments.

In the distance, beyond the Old City and the University, I saw an unusual building which appeared to have many huge glass windows, rounded at the top and as tall as a multi-storied high-rise building. I asked the bellhop what this building was that was very clearly to be seen from our balcony. His only response was dead silence. He “saw nothing.” I later found out that the building was a hotel. I think, but am not certain; it may have been called the Pan Am hotel (or a similar sounding name). The reason the bellhop would not say what it was that we were both viewing, was that he chose not to see Jordon, i.e. not to recognize or speak about what was in full view because it was in Jordan, which did not recognize Israel as a country, had no relations with Israel, and was still the enemy. For him, anything in Jordan did not exist.

One day we took a half-hour flight down to Eilat. The airport there consisted of a shack and a dirt field. At the beach there was another shack that combined a food-stand and locker rooms. A short distance up the beach there were a couple of old glass-bottom boats. We took a ride and viewed the coral reefs. Eilat in 1966 was nothing more than a frontier town similar to what you’d see in an old western…only smaller. When you visit Eilat now it is difficult to imagine what I saw in 1966, given that the beach area of Eilat today resembles Miami Beach.

During our entire three-week trip the principal news was that there was an Israeli PT boat stuck on a sand bar in the middle of the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) which was being shelled daily by Syrians firing cannons and machine guns from the Golan Heights above the great lake. This continued for many more weeks beyond out visit. Fortunately the Syrians had terrible aim and/or meager explosives in their shells because the PT boat somehow was not severely damaged. The Israelis apparently did hit some of the Syrian troops ensconced in bunkers on the Heights as each day Israeli Mirage fighter planes fired on them. One could often hear the sounds of the aircraft and occasionally the weaponry. Little did we or anyone know that this would be one of the events that was a prelude to the Six Day War which commenced less than a year later, on the morning of Sunday, June 5, 1967.

Rudolph G. Sonneborn

There are only a few people who can qualify for nomination as "the person most responsible for the existence of the State of Israel.” In my opinion one of those people is most assuredly Rudolph Sonneborn.

In 1919 (aged 20) Rudolf visited Palestine from January to August, acting as the Secretary to the Zionist Commission. He was investigating the feasibility of creating an independent Jewish State of Israel on its territory. A detailed account of his trip was recorded in “Letters Home.”[1] During this trip Rudolph began a close friendship with David Ben-Gurion, which lasted the rest of their lives.

In 1947, shortly before the end of the British mandate, David Ben-Gurion asked Rudolf for help. Ben-Gurion explained that the Arabs states that surrounded Palestine were arming to the teeth and that when the British pulled out the Palestinians (the Jews) would be attacked. They would need all sorts of war supplies ranging from the obvious; guns, bullets and explosives, to the not-so-obvious; brassieres, because women would have to fight and be clothed as well as men.

Rudy, as his friends and family called him, immediately sprung into action and made the necessary telephone calls to American-Jewish activists, telling them only that their presence was required at his apartment at a particular time and date. A small gathering of these gentlemen assembled at his apartment and were addressed by David Ben-Gurion, who explained the situation, what was required and why their help was urgently needed to send supplies to the Jewish community in Palestine and its military force, the Haganah. The group became a secretive, nationwide organization led by Mr. Sonneborn: Materials for Israel, also known as the Sonneborn Institute.

In my opinion there are only a few people who can qualify for nomination as "the person most responsible for the existence of the State of Israel." One of those people is indeed Rudolph G. Sonneborn. The amazing part is that the only place you will ever read anything about him and his enormously critical role during the period prior to the War of Independence, and about his unique group, the Sonneborn Institute, is in Leonard Slater’s book entitled, The Pledge. (Robert St. John, in several of his books about Israel such as, Shalom Means Peace, mentions the Sonneborn Institute maybe twice, and Rudy's name possibly once.) The Pledge, a fascinating and, for me, spellbinding true story, contains mystery, intrigue, defiance of the U.S. ban on shipments of war materials and violation of The US Enemy Neutrality Act (which had never been invoked since it became law in 1776), ingenious maneuvering, secretive meetings and purchases, hidden shipments and even the sexual encounter of a Central American dictator. Everyone interested in Israel should read this book and know not only the fascinating story, but learn about Rudolf G.Sonneborn, one of the most important, yet most private of men, in Jewish history. There are no monuments of plaques to be found honoring Rudy. Although his last wife, who had been his nurse, arranged for a sentence about him to be etched in stone on a lookout point below Hebrew University, overlooking the great city of Jerusalem.

Burnham & Company
Having started out at the very bottom of the institutional research department at Burnham & Co. in December 1959, by 1962 I was a one promotion away from becoming a fledgling security analyst in the research department. My desk was outside the door of two senior analysts David Norr and John Furth. David was a brilliant and quite successful analyst who was a prodigious producer of written research reports. He wrote more reports than anyone in the department (of course it helped that he wrote in the style of a Western Union telegram) and they were all good ones.

Norr ran an advertisement for an assistant. He hired the best responder, a fellow named John Z. Katz. John was a nephew of Rudolph Sonneborn (John's mother was Rudolf’s sister) and worked for his uncle's company, Sonneborn Oil and Chemical. A little bit of trivia is that her name was Amalie, and her brother named his brand of motor after her and it became quite a well known brand. Today Amalie markets motor oils, hydraulic oils, gear oils, greases and a variety of commercial and industrial lubricants.

The Sonneborn Oil Co was moving its New York City office to Mahwah, New Jersey and as Katz had no desire to become a commuter, he became David Norr’s research assistant. Shortly after his hire however, David Norr quit the firm when he was passed over for a partnership while his roommate John Furth was made a partner. I'm sure David thought he was a superior analyst, and that he was passed over because he came from the wrong side of the tracks. Moreover, he couldn't, I think, abide Furth approving all of his outgoing letters (a partner had to approve all letters on company letterhead) and research reports. So he quit the firm and John Katz was left hanging in the air, "boss-less."

Joe Kirchheimer, the head of research, asked me to oversee the activities of John Katz and look after him, i. e. to be his boss… sort of. John and I worked closely together, co-authored numerous research reports and quickly became close friends. I was one of the few analysts in the research department who was registered as a stockbroker and had some brokerage clients; I had developed a "book” of customers and managed their accounts on a discretionary basis. Not to toot my horn, but I was pretty good at picking winning stocks and I made money for my clients. Noticing this, John told his uncle Rudolf about me and pretty soon made an introduction. Uncle Rudolf gave me a sum of money to invest for him at my discretion and so I made investments for and got to know Rudolph well. Although not so well that I was invited to his wedding when he later married Dorothy Schiff

Slowly, over time, I learned from John all about Uncle Rudolf, his 1947 - 48 secret activities with the code-named Sonneborn Institute, and how he knew all of the leadership in the government of Israel (though it was more like the leadership of Israel all knew Rudolf Sonneborn).

Western Union Telegram
On Sunday, June 5 1967 war broke out between Israel and its surrounding (and other) Arab countries. Everyone everywhere was glued to the radio. Every day we would hear the Israelis were clobbering the Arabs. The armies of Jordan, Syria, Egypt and the others were being run over and cut down like a hot knife going through butter. Their air forces were decimated; it turned out Israel had struck first and knocked out most of the Arab aircraft on the ground. Israeli ground forces, tanks and infantry men, moved rapidly forward as the war was taken to their enemies, outside the Israeli borders. The speed at which the Israeli forces moved and the distance they covered was simply astonishing.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 9, the fourth day of the war, I received a Western Union telegram in the office. No one had ever witnessed the delivery of a Western Union telegram to the office, certainly not to anyone in the research department. The only Western Union telegrams that were sent to the firm were sent to someone in the syndicate department, which probably received them every few days from underwriters confirming Burnham & Company participation in a stock or bond offering.

I thought the telegram to me had to be a mistake but no, it was addressed to Lawrence J. Goldstein. I pulled the paper out of the envelope, unfolded it and read the following, urgent meeting, my office, 4 PM today, your presence required. It was signed Gus Levy.

Now of course I knew who Gus Levy was. Everyone knew who Gus Levy was. But Mr. Levy, pardon me "Gus," couldn't possibly have known me. Let me put it this way; Gus Levy didn't know me from a hole in the wall and I simply knew who he was; we’d never met. Mr. Gus Levy was the most powerful senior partner of one of the most powerful Wall Street firms, Goldman Sachs.

Why was He sending me a Western Union telegram and why did he want me to come to his office and what was so urgent? I was flabbergasted. I didn't have a clue. I took a walk around the research department and peered into the various offices and looked over at the desks of the analysts, who sat in a large open area separated by partitions, and quickly concluded no one else gotten a telegram.

Then I saw my friend John Katz. He had a Western Union-yellow piece of paper in his hand and on his face the same look of puzzlement with which I must've been walking around. Yes, my friend John had also received a telegram from Gus. In unison, John and I recited "urgent meeting, my office, 4 PM today, your presence required." We just stood there dumbfounded. I looked at John and John looked at me. John looked at me and I looked at John.

All morning and into the afternoon John and I thought about why we had received a telegram, why we had received this invitation - or should we call it a summons? - from none other than Gus Levy, the senior partner of Goldman Sachs. We racked our brains to think of a viable reason. Then we speculated.

Finally it dawned on us that it must have something to do with Israel, that it must have something to do with the war, which, ongoing as it was, was not yet called “the Six-Day War” of course. Maybe there was to be some kind of briefing? But why invite us? Why brief us? How come, as far as we can tell, no one else in the firm was invited, or ordered, to Gus's office?

I started to wonder, “does Gus Levy know my past, the interest I had in all things Jewish and my great devotion to Israel? Did he somehow know about my background, my visit to Israel as I’ve detailed above?”

After a lot of thought we had an “aha, that must be it” moment and concluded that it must have been that Gus and uncle Rudy knew each other extremely well and for a long time. People at the United Jewish Appeal surely knew Rudy and therefore must have known that John Katz was his nephew and thus also that John was employed at Burnham and, somehow, that the two of us worked very closely together. The fact that each of us made annual contributions, as modest as they may have been, to the UJA possibly also entered into it. Somehow they might also have been aware that we contributed to the Jewish National Fund, Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and other Jewish charities and that we bought Israel bonds as well. That had to be it!

Gus Levy was known to be very charitable with respect to Israel and very involved in Israeli causes and philanthropy. The same is also true of his firm, Goldman Sachs. These two facts were well known by us. Israel, the war, a briefing…we paused and lingered on the last thought, namely philanthropy and our support of both Jewish Israeli causes and - oh my gosh! - being a contributor as well. Could it be that the meeting would be some kind of fundraiser? Yes, maybe it was going to be a fundraiser!

But we still couldn't get over the fact that as far as we could tell we were the only two invited from our firm because, when it came to annual earnings and net worth, Jesus, we would be near the bottom of anybody's list of big givers at Burnham & Company. A large charitable gift for me at that time was chai ($18) or $25. So I prepared myself to go to a meeting at which, if they were asking for contributions, I could afford to make, perhaps, another $25 gift.

At about a quarter to four that afternoon we walked out of our 60 Broad Street office and across the street to the building in which Goldman Sachs had its offices. A uniformed "lobby man" directed us to an elevator. Several older gray-haired gentlemen attired in dark-colored or pinstripe suits got into the elevator with us. The elevator operator pushed the elevator doors closed, then the elevator gate, and leaned down on the handle of the elevator throttle as up we rose to the appointed floor.

The Greatest Fund Raising Event of All Time

Upon reaching our floor the elevator gate was pushed open and the elevator doors opened by the elevator man. Stepping out of the elevator we found ourselves in a rather large nondescript room with a wood floor and bare walls. Rows of folding chairs had been set up auditorium-style with an aisle right down the middle and aisles on either side. Up front, right smack in the middle, was an opened, double-sized bridge table. Very nattily dressed men were to be seen, many with gray heads; most were milling about, speaking with one another and taking seats. I was 31 years old. Everyone else in the room appeared to me to be much older and some, clearly, twice or more my age. Even John Katz was older; though I had always taken it for granted that John was about my age, eventually I was shocked to learn he was 10 years my senior. Even so, everyone else in the room looked to be considerably older than John.

I took an aisle seat on the right side of the room about two thirds of the way from the front and John took the seat beside me. Very soon the room was brimful of men and all the seats - there may have been 100 or more - were quickly filled. As I looked around the room I recognized some of the faces. Not that I knew the people or had ever met them but, rather, I had seen their photographs in newspapers and magazines. There was the elderly, little and enormously powerful, André Meyer, the senior partner of Investment banking giant Lazard Frères. My heavens! There was the man I recognized as the senior partner of Lehman Brothers! I recognized the senior partner of H. Hentz & Company. I actually had met him once when my cousin's father-in-law, who was a broker at the firm for a zillion years, introduced me to him. There was Jack Nash and Leon Levy of Oppenheimer. It became obvious that the senior partners of every single Jewish-run firm were present and that all in attendance, save for John and myself, was a Wall Street bigwig. I. W. “Tubby” Burnham II, who sent his son Jon, who came in late and stood leaning against a wall near the front right side of the room. (So someone else at Burnham and Co other than Katz and I had in fact received an “urgent meeting, 4 PM, your presence required" telegram after all. Because the two Burnham’s (Father and son) had offices that were on a different floor than John and I were located on we were unaware that Jon Burnham was attending.

Suddenly, I recognized Gus Levy rushing into the room to stand behind the double bridge table set up at the front of the room. Right behind him was a tall, slender, bespectacled older gentleman; well he was not old (he was 59) he was just older-looking. I recognized him as Max Fisher, National Chairman of the UJA at the time (and from 1965 to 1967).

Gus Levy banged loudly on the bridge table and the crowded room of men grew silent. He said, "Max is just back from the front and wants to tell you what's going on.” The news reports we were all hearing from the front were really quite incredible. It was the fourth day of the war and we were hearing only spectacular news of the way in which Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) were advancing against Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon like a hot knife cuting through butter.

The lanky, but formidable looking gentleman stood erect, looked out to the assembled audience and began describing where he had been, what he had seen and what he had been told by the IDF’s Chief of Staff and the Israeli Prime Minister during an unbelievably quick and short whirlwind trip to Israel. “You all know how the war is going, and it is going very well for us. Every day you are hearing on the radio and reading in the papers about the astonishing, rapidly moving Israel Defense Forces knocking out the Arab forces, having complete superiority in the air, disabling Arab armor and ordinance, tanks and trucks, killing thousands of their soldiers, taking thousands more as prisoners and capturing land as they move into the surrounding countries of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. They will finally capture the old city of Jerusalem, East Jerusalem and territory on the West Bank. Our soldiers are doing an unbelievable job, as you know. However, what you may not know is that we lost a couple of airplanes, and they cost many millions of dollars. We lost several tanks and they cost millions more.”

Gus Levy suddenly stood up and interrupted Fisher by banging with a gavel on the table, and said, "Alright, enough. You all know why we're here. Let's get started!”

With that, someone began calling the roll of attendees in alphabetical order. The first one to have his name called obviously had a last name beginning with the letter “A”. I can't recall his name, but it might've been Adler. He was a tall, slender, old looking gentleman. I will never forget his words. He said, "On behalf of my firm, we’re contributing $10 million.” But the guy didn't sit down. He then said, "And because I am a Jew, I myself am contributing another $10 million.” (While I don't remember the exact sum after all these years, believe me when I tell you I am not far off.)

There wasn't a peep in the room, not even a murmur. It was sort of like the rest of the crowd couldn't be impressed with what they had just heard.

I started to cringe in my seat.

They moved along through the alphabet calling each of these captains of finance in turn, by name. Each time a name was called the gentleman rose, said a few words about being supportive and being proud and announced a contribution. The amount of almost each contribution sounded like telephone numbers to me! (Telephone numbers then, as today were seven digits long. I think to make a long-distance call in those days one had to contact the operator to place a call. It was before the breakup of AT&T and I don't think area codes had yet come into usage, so my analogy of the contribution amounts resembling telephone numbers, I believe to be accurate.)




At the point after I entered the room and realized what was going to happen, that the purpose of the meeting was to raise money, I started thinking to myself well, maybe I could make a stretch to $50. I don't know what the net worth or the annual earnings of the people in this meeting room were but I guarantee you, at most, I might have had a teeny-tiny fraction of a percent of what any of theirs was.

I don't recall exactly what I was thinking I would do when my name was called, as the telephone number-like contributions added up as rapidly as a gas pump meter’s total, spinning larger and larger. But I finally became resolute, maybe it was $100, as I said to myself, “Self? Look, you can only give what you can afford. You're not in the same class as these guys. So just stand up when your name is called, announce your contribution and sit down.” My name being Goldstein and the letter “G” coming up seventh in the alphabet, that is, pretty early on, I resigned myself to what I simply had to do. Nevertheless I think I was shivering in my shoes.

My time had arrived; the name caller had arrived at the last names beginning with “G.” I was a nervous wreck but I was ready to do what I had to do, indeed, all I could do; announce my hundred-dollar contribution and sit down. I don't think talking to myself stopped the sweat from pouring down my back.

All at once it happened. “Lawrence Goldstein,” the roll-caller called out. Whereupon the man sitting right behind me stood up and shouted, "You mean Morris Goldstein.” And that was it. I don't know what he said after that. I don't know what he contributed. I don't know what people following Morris Goldstein [2] said or contributed. I don't remember much more at all. They continued through the roll call, naming the rest of the donors, and when it was completed everyone headed for the elevators.

I believe at least $100 million was raised in less than an hour for the UJA to provide assistance to Israel. I don't believe there's ever been as much money rose as there was that afternoon certainly never before and I'll bet never since. This was the Greatest Fund Raising Event of All Time.
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[1] http://rudolfsonneborn.blogspot.com/

[2] Morris Goldstein was the partner in charge of the research department of the stock brokerage firm of Glore Forgan. I knew Morris Goldstein, though we were not related. As an analyst I covered, wrote research reports, and liked National Service Industries, Inc. (NSI) and Morris Goldstein was a member of that company's board of directors. From time to time I would speak with him about the company. In fact he enabled me to have good insight into the management and the business, which was purchased by a private equity firm in 2003.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Israel's PM Netanyahu Addresses Congress And Receives a Yea From The WSJ and a Columnist’s Nay and a Nay From The NY Times




The Wall STREET JOURNAL

A Yea


Netanyahu’s Challenge


The Israeli Prime Minister takes apart the looming Iran deal.


Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images


President Obama thought so little of Benjamin Netanyahu ’s speech to Congress Tuesday that he made clear he hadn’t watched it and said the text didn’t “offer any viable alternatives” to the Administration’s pending nuclear deal with Iran. We’ll take that presidential passive-aggression as evidence that the Israeli Prime Minister’s critique was as powerful as Mr. Obama feared.

For all the White House’s fretting beforehand about the speech’s potential damage to U.S.-Israel relations, Mr. Netanyahu was both bipartisan and gracious to Mr. Obama for all he “has done for Israel,” citing examples previously not publicly known. But the power of the speech—the reason the Israeli leader was willing to risk breaking diplomatic china to give it—was its systematic case against the looming nuclear deal.


Point by point, he dismantled the emerging details and assumptions of what he called a “very bad deal.” The heart of his critique concerned the nature of the Iranian regime as a terror sponsor of long-standing that has threatened to “annihilate” Israel and is bent on regional domination.


The Administration argues that a nuclear accord will help move the revolutionary regime toward moderation. But Mr. Netanyahu spent some 15 minutes laying out the regime’s historical record. Since Hasan Rouhani became president in 2013, Iran’s internal repression has become worse than in the days of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad . Iran has doubled down on its military support for Bashar Assad in Syria, gained control of north Yemen through its Houthi militia proxies, and continued to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and Shiite militias in Iraq.


Mr. Netanyahu noted that the pending deal would lift the economic sanctions that have driven Iran to the negotiating table. “Would Iran be less aggressive when sanctions are removed and its economy is stronger?” Mr. Netanyahu asked. “Why should Iran’s radical regime change for the better when it can enjoy the best of both worlds: aggression abroad, prosperity at home?” These are good questions that the Administration should be obliged to answer.

The Prime Minister also rightly raised doubts about whether even an intrusive inspections regime could guarantee enough notice if Iran seeks to divert its nuclear capabilities to build a bomb. North Korea agreed to inspectors in a deal with the Clinton Administration, he noted, only to oust them years later and build its nuclear arsenal: “Here’s the problem: You see, inspectors document violations; they don’t stop them.”


He also zeroed in on the deal’s acceptance of Iran’s already robust nuclear infrastructure, coupled with a 10-year sunset provision after which Iran could enrich as much uranium in as many centrifuges as it likes. To appreciate the scope of this concession, recall that the Administration and U.N. Security Council demanded that Iran “halt all enrichment activities” in a resolution adopted in 2010.


The Administration now says that it can’t plausibly forbid Iran from having some enrichment capability. But the only alternative to zero enrichment isn’t the major capacity the White House is now prepared to concede to Tehran. Such a capability makes it easier for Iran to cheat on any agreement it signs. The sunset provision also means that Iran can simply bide its time to build an even larger nuclear capacity.


“Iran could get to the bomb by violating the deal,” Mr. Netanyahu said, and it could also “get to a bomb by keeping the deal.”


Mr. Netanyahu was especially effective in rebutting the Administration’s claim that the only alternatives at the current moment are Mr. Obama’s deal—or war. This is the familiar false choice—his way or disaster—that has become a hallmark of the President’s political argumentation.


But Mr. Netanyahu said there is a third choice—negotiate a better deal. He pointed out that sanctions had driven Iran to the negotiating table when oil was $100 a barrel and it would be under greater pressure now when oil is closer to $50. For all of its fanaticism and ambition, Iran is still a relatively weak country under great economic pressure. The U.S. has leverage to drive a harder bargain if it is willing to use it.


Mr. Netanyahu hinted that he could still accept some kind of agreement, despite attempts to portray him as opposed to any concessions. But the Prime Minister made clear in particular that any sunset provision would only be acceptable if it hinged on a change in Iran’s behavior.


“If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires,” he said to a standing ovation.


Given Mr. Obama’s reaction, the Prime Minister knows his real audience is Congress and the American people. His speech raised serious doubts about an accord that has been negotiated in secret and which Mr. Obama wants Americans to accept without a vote in Congress. Now maybe we can have a debate worthy of the high nuclear stakes.

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A Nay


Opinion



Netanyahu’s Forceful but Misguided Address


His logic should lead him to urge an Iranian regime change, but he knows that won’t sell in the U.S.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of the United States Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol March 3, 2015.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of the United States Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol March 3, 2015. Photo: Getty Images

http://s.wsj.net/img/galston_A_William.jpg

By

William A. Galston


In a speech delivered Tuesday to a joint meeting of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forcefully laid out his objections to the terms of the nuclear agreement that the U.S. and its negotiating partners may be on the verge of reaching with the government of Iran. “For over a year,” he declared, “we’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.”


Mr. Netanyahu and other critics of the current negotiations are dismayed by the size of the nuclear program that Iran would be allowed to retain, and they are especially unhappy about the agreement’s reported “sunset clause”—the time limit after which the negotiated restraints would lapse. Unless the Iranian regime changes fundamentally, critics ask, why would it be any more trustworthy in 2025 than it is today?

In fairness, no one is entirely satisfied wit
h the agreement taking shape. As Robert Einhorn, a key member of the U.S. team from 2009-13 puts it, “Banning enrichment and dismantling Iran’s existing enrichment facilities would indeed be the best negotiated outcome.” The difficulty, he adds, is that “such an agreement is not attainable.” (We could have gotten a lot closer if the Bush administration had not spurned a much more forthcoming Iranian offer a decade ago.)


One of the strongest arguments in favor of the deal is that even after the agreement ends, the Iranians would still face multiple restraints. As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran would stand under a continuing obligation not to become a nuclear-armed state.


In addition, the Iranians would be required to adhere to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s “Additional Protocols,” the terms of which increase the IAEA’s authority to inspect nuclear-related facilities and to demand information. To enforce this rigorous inspection regime, the U.S. would make clear its determination to impose severe punishments, including military force, in response to Iranian noncompliance. And to give enforcement time to work, the agreement would have to establish restrictions on Iran’s technology (as the deal reportedly will) that will leave the Islamic Republic at least a year away from the bomb.


Still, this emerging agreement entails substantial uncertainties and risks. The question is whether another course of action exists that holds the prospect of better results.


Mr. Netanyahu is certain that one does. “Iran’s nuclear program can be rolled back well beyond the current proposal by insisting on a better deal,” he told Congress, “and keeping up the pressure on a very vulnerable regime, especially given the recent collapse in the price of oil.” And if Iran threatens to walk away from the table? “Call their bluff,” he said. “They’ll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do. And by maintaining the pressure on Iran and on those who do business with Iran, you have the power to make them need it even more.”


But how confident can we be about this assessment? The evidence that increased economic pressure would make Iran more compliant is weak at best. Rather than accept a U.S. diktat, Iran’s leaders have suggested that their country would hunker down and accept economic isolation as the cost of national independence. If we impose new sanctions, they might well walk away from the current interim agreement and speed the expansion of their nuclear program. And then what?


There is a contradiction at the heart of the Israeli prime minister’s argument. If Ayatollah Khamenei is a Hitler (Mr. Netanyahu made the analogy), we cannot do business with him, and we shouldn’t try. If Iran is really determined, as Mr. Netanyahu insists, “to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world,” then why should we believe that any diplomatic outcome will make Tehran more tractable? Negotiations with the Nazis in the 1930s just whetted their appetite. The point isn’t a better or worse deal, it’s regime change.


If the prime minister had followed his own logic, that is where he would have ended up—urging regime change in Tehran. But he couldn’t, because he knows that the American people are still reeling from their government’s ill-starred effort to effect regime change in Iraq. (Our prior effort to do that in Iran set in motion a chain of events that led to the Islamic Republic.) Instead, he offers the unsupported hope that more sanctions will bring Iran to its knees. This is wishful thinking masquerading as hardheaded realism.


We have to face facts. We cannot entirely eliminate Iran’s capacity to enrich nuclear materials—even through a military strike. The best we can do is mix carrots and sticks, inspections and surveillance to deter Iran from breaking through negotiated limits and racing toward nuclear weapons.


Judged against the ideal, the emerging deal doesn’t look good. Judged against feasible goals and actual alternatives, it looks a lot better.

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Another Nay

The New York Times

The Opinion Pages | Editorial

Mr. Netanyahu’s Unconvincing Speech to Congress


By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Inside

Photo
http://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/03/04/opinion/4wed1WEB/4wed1WEB-articleLarge.jpg
Members of Congress greeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Tuesday.  Credit Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel could not have hoped for a more rapturous welcome in Congress. With Republicans and most Democrats as his props, he entered the House of Representatives to thunderous applause on Tuesday, waving his hand like a conquering hero and being mobbed by fawning lawmakers as he made his way to the lectern.

Even Washington doesn’t often see this level of exploitative political theater; it was made worse because it was so obviously intended to challenge President Obama’s foreign policy.

Mr. Netanyahu’s speech offered nothing of substance that was new, making it clear that this performance was all about proving his toughness on security issues ahead of the parliamentary election he faces on March 17. He offered no new insight on Iran and no new reasons to reject the agreement being negotiated with Iran by the United States and five other major powers to constrain Iran’s nuclear program.

His demand that Mr. Obama push for a better deal is hollow. He clearly doesn’t want negotiations and failed to suggest any reasonable alternative approach that could halt Iran’s nuclear efforts.


Moreover, he appeared to impose new conditions, insisting that international sanctions not be lifted as long as Iran continues its aggressive behavior, including hostility toward Israel and support for Hezbollah, which has called for Israel’s destruction.

Mr. Netanyahu has two main objections. One is that an agreement would not force Iran to dismantle its nuclear facilities and would leave it with the ability to enrich uranium and, in time, to produce enough nuclear fuel for a bomb. Two, that a deal to severely restrict Iran’s ability to produce nuclear fuel for a decade or more is not long enough. He also dismisses the potential effectiveness of international inspections to deter Iran from cheating.

While an agreement would not abolish the nuclear program, which Iran says it needs for power generation and medical purposes, neither would walking away. Even repeated bombing of Iran’s nuclear plants would not eliminate its capability because Iran and its scientists have acquired the nuclear know-how over the past six decades to rebuild the program in a couple of years.

The one approach that might constrain Iran is tough negotiations, which the United States and its partners Britain, France, China, Germany and Russia have rightly committed to. If an agreement comes together, it would establish verifiable limits on the nuclear program that do not now exist and ensure that Iran could not quickly produce enough weapons-usable material for a bomb. The major benefit for Iran is that it would gradually be freed of many of the onerous international sanctions that have helped cripple its economy.


While no Iranian facilities are expected to be dismantled, critical installations are expected to be reconfigured so they are less of a threat and the centrifuge machines used to enrich uranium would be reduced. Iran would be barred from enriching uranium above 5 percent, the level needed for power generation and medical uses but not sufficient for producing weapons-grade nuclear fuel. Absent a negotiated agreement, Iran will continue with its program without constraints.

Islamic regime and the danger it poses to Israel and to regional stability through its support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Shiite militias in Baghdad, rebels in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon.