By: Joshua Kaplan | Features  | 

From the Commie Archives: George H.W. Bush at Chanukah Dinner

Editor’s Note: Over three decades ago, Yeshiva University presented Vice-President George H.W. Bush with an honorary degree at the annual Chanukah dinner. This reprinting is intended both to highlight the history of the Chanukah dinner and its associated fundraising, as well as to serve as a tribute to the recently deceased George H.W. Bush


Title: From the Archives (January 6, 1986; Volume 51 Issue 4) — Bush Addresses Chanuka Dinner, Record Amount Raised

Author: Joshua Kaplan

On Sunday, December 15, Yeshiva University held its sixty-first annual Chanukah dinner. Honorary degrees were granted to the Vice-President of the United States, Mr. George Bush, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, the honorable Meir Rosenne, and five prominent business leaders. Preliminary reports indicate that a record-setting $17,000,000 in the form of gifts and pledges was raised for the University.

In his address during the convocation that preceded the dinner Vice-President Bush denounced international terrorism as evil, and expressed concern for anti-semitism, both in the US and abroad. “The Soviet Union has joined other nations in using the United Nations as a forum for anti-semitism,” said Mr. Bush, citing the “Zionism is Racism” resolution as an example of the tactics used to oust Israel from the United Nations. He expressed particular concern over the plight of Soviet Jewry, and on the national level, the threat posed by neo-Nazi groups and the rising popularity of Louis Farakhan, who Mr. Bush named, “the best peddler of anti-semitism.” Mr. Bush also called Israel “our foremost strategic friend in the Middle East.” Addressing the issue of peace in the Middle East, Mr. Bush assured his audience that the United States would only try to facilitate negotiations, but will never attempt to impose a settlement.

The Chanukah dinner, held this year at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, has traditionally been the fundraising event of the year. According to Mr. David Zeisman, Vice-President of Development, this year’s dinner was the most successful ever. “The dinner was the most outstanding fundraising event in the history of the University. It broke all records.” He attributed the dinner’s success to the “devotion and dedication on the part of University officials,” and to the “tremendous benevolence” of the Jewish community leaders.

The University officials most directly responsible for the dinner’s success were Dinner Chairman Mr. Sy Syms, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees; Mr. Stanley E. Stern, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Chairman of the convocation; and Mr. Jay Zises, a member of the Board of Trustees who also served as Chairman of the Dinner Executive Committee. Mr. Zeisman did not attribute the dinner’s success directly to the Centennial celebration already under way, stating, “Next year it will be even greater.” Rumors abound that to mark the University’s Centennial year, President Ronald Reagan will address the participants at the Chanukah dinner next December.

The keynote speaker at the dinner was the Honorable Meir Rosenne, Israeli Ambassador to the United States. In his address, Mr. Rosenne hailed the achievements of the Jewish people throughout history. The dinner was also highlighted by the showing of “Yeshiva University: A Century of Achievement,” a video presentation produced by a professional company and narrated by Mr. Syms. Student leaders attending the dinner felt that the production was an excellent way of bridging the gap between the benefactors and the students. Mr. Abe Peller, Vice-President of YCSC, commented that “The production was a great success as it enlightened the people to the ideals and goals of the students they are supporting.”

Keynote Address

Ambassador Rosenne delivered a highly charged address telling of his flight from the hands of the Nazis at the age of ten. In addition, he spoke of the importance of Jewish pride and the uniqueness of the Jewish people. “Never has there been another instance in recorded history of a people whose political state and religious center were destroyed, its land devastated, its members driven off and dispersed to the far corners of the earth, only to survive in creativity and dignity, to retain their faith, and to return to their land and rebuild after nineteen hundred years.” He linked the survival of the Jewish people to their faith in G-d, steadfastness to Torah, to the memory of Jerusalem and the determination to return and rebuild their ancient capital.


Photo Caption: The Commentator archives

Photo Credit: The Commentator