By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Last week I was the recipient of
the Humanitarian Award from the Queens Bnai Brith Housing Foundation. Id
like to share an edited version of my remarks:
In case you were not aware, the last name
of Howard, who presented this award to me, is not really Krebs. To me, he is Howard
"Gayles father." You see sitting at my table is my daughter Allison, my
wife Lillian, other family members along with Howard, his wife Elaine and daughter Gayle.
I know Howard through Gayle, who is Allisons friend. Its a little complicated
and really not relevant, but it was Howard, a Foundation director, who first called me
about this evening.
You heard all the wonderful things that
Howard said about me. Well hes an attorney you cant believe all that he
says. Me, Im a journalist. I wrote those nice things for him.
But this evening is as much about Allison
and Gayle as it is about the rest of us. You see girls, many of the people in this room
have spent a good portion of their lives helping others. They already know and have lived
the message of this evening. The true job tonight is for all of us to make sure that the
message is carried on. Therefore, this is about you. Pay attention; there will be a test
Seriously, Im honored to accept the
Humanitarian Award from the Jerome S. Beatus Bnai Brith Housing Foundation.
A humanitarian: Webster says its
"a person devoted to promoting the welfare of humanity" the human race
especially the elimination of pain and suffering. The word, now meaning devoted to
human welfare, was first recorded in England in 1844 and was originally disparaging,
connoting one who goes to excess in humane principles.
Weve come along way. What was a
negative in 1844 is an honored and cherished value today.
To be a humanitarian: Well, Howard tried to
make the case for me. Im not sure he succeeded or if he even had the raw material
with which to make the case. But Howard, Im grateful for your attempt.
I was brought up in a middle-class home in
Queens and instilled with some wonderful values. And to this day, I try to live up to the
standards, taught by my parents, that would hopefully someday earn the recognition to be
called a humanitarian. I believe I still have a lot of work ahead of me.
Being a newspaper publisher and columnist
allows me to share my thoughts and values on a weekly basis with some 300,000 plus people
of Queens. I do my best to speak for improvement in the human condition. But that
doesnt earn me this award. The paper and its message is a joint effort of a staff of
about 50 people and many other contributors some of the staff is here this
is your honor, too but Ill hold onto it.
The true humanitarians that this award
should honor are the people who have worked for more than two decades in making this
organization and the Queens Bnai Brith house a reality by providing
non-sectarian, senior housing to our community. I dont know them all; others
Ive just met this evening and several of them are no longer with us.
Nathan Nagler, for whom the Bnai
Brith House is named, and Jerome Beatus, for whom this Foundation is named, are two of the
true humanitarians, who, among others, created, in their own words:
"A dream come true . . . an enriched
and dignified environment dedicated to the Golden Years. "A total community where the
elderly . . .and a number of self-sufficient handicapped men and woman have found a secure
and dignified complete way of life."
Those words are taken from the dedication
program in June of 1983. . . a dedication of this 12-story wonderland in the heart of
downtown Flushing which was attended by, among others, the founder of the Queens
Tribune, my dear friend, Congressman Gary Ackerman.
But the legacy of Nat Nagler and Jerome
Beatus and then Queens Bnai Brith Council President Harry Weisbord is carried
on today by Anita Weisbrod, Sylvia Beatus, Harry Oster, David Wanetik, Howard Krebs and
the other marvelous, giving board members who continue to provide for the enrichment of
the quality of life of the residents of the building. I know there are many names that I
didnt mention but I salute each of them.
The residents who live in the Queens
Bnai Brith House, which has a 6-7 year waiting list for its 190 apartments, must
meet income levels set by HUD regulation. They speak English, Russian, Spanish, Japanese,
Chinese and a host of other languages. They represent the true cross section of Queens,
the most culturally diverse place on this earth.
Several months ago, I was given a tour of
the marvelous home.
The residents maintain a community tenants
council and through the generosity of the people here today and other humanitarians they
have built a tenant run library, coffee shop, computer room, and a garden where they
barbecue in the summer. They have decorated the building and they care for each other.
They post cards on their apartment doors and check each other daily. They go on trips. The
Jerome Beatus Foundation provides the funding to make most of the extras possible. These
generous and dedicated foundation board members and supporters are the true humanitarians,
They have built a home for those who toiled
a generation before us. . . people who came here from all corners of the earth. Some born
here; some traveled under difficult conditions, for a better life here in Queens.
Theyve spent their lives building the
world for us and for our children.
And now is time to give back and help them
live that better life. We celebrate them, the residents of the Queens Bnai
Brith House, but equally important, we celebrate those who have enabled them to find
some gold in the their golden years.
This is not my first experience with the
wonderful work of Bnai Brith and the volunteerism that keeps our communities
alive, vibrant and caring.
My mother was, for quite a number of years,
president of the Boca Raton Chapter of Bnai Brith Women. For almost a dozen
years, she edited their award-winning newspaper. She is still, at age 85, a member of the
Chapter, working for humanitarian causes in her case, its a childrens
home. It is this marvelous grace which embodies the spirit of volunteerism in Bnai
Brith and many other wonderful, generous organizations.
Since mom is in Florida, I never had the
opportunity to participate in any of her efforts. I am grateful that this group has given
me that privilege. . .the privilege to share in the spirit and dedication to others less
fortunate a spirit that we must keep alive with our work and teachings, and a
spirit which must be passed to our children so that they, too, will enable these marvelous
works to continue.
Volunteerism, Allison and Gayle the
spirit of what is good about people.
The people involved in this Foundation, are
the true embodiment of what is right with our way of life. As I go around Queens, I meet
people from all walks of life who give of themselves for a variety of humanitarian and
other worthwhile causes. Here, in this wonderful group in this room, we have true
humanitarians who built a remarkable building and continue, 18 years later, to fund the
quality of life programs for people who are not part of their immediate family, but are
part of the family of man.
They honor me this evening. And I thank
But more appropriately, I honor them and
their marvelous work
And A Small Story Within
The wonderful evening and meaningful
celebration took place at Douglaston Manor last Thursday night. Needless to say I found
the event delightful and was thrilled to have shared it with the generous people who
showed their support of this worthwhile cause.
Alsos meaningful was my return to
Douglaston Manor for the first time since it is under new ownership. For years, the
catering hall was a favorite of mine we held Trib parties there. Six months
ago, Tommy Chan took over the Parks Department property and revitalized the old
Manor. The food was wonderful; service fine and the cocktail party enchanting on the
outdoor patio overlooking the Douglaston Golf Course with the city skyline clearly visible
as the backdrop a week of rain yielded to a most glorious evening.
The quiet triumph I witnessed Thursday
evening was the triumph of Tommy Chan a Chinese immigrant who has worked his way
into the forefront of Queens catering. Undaunted by the whispers throughout Queens
inner circle suggesting the task of building and sparking business for the fading Manor
was too great for him. Subtle racial stereotypes were woven into the whispers suggesting
that perhaps a Kosher style affair demanded by Bnai Brith would be beyond the
ken of an Asian immigrant.
Not so. Tommy and staff demonstrated true
concern for the needs and desires of his guests. The food prepared perfectly, the service
attentive and courteous, the facility fine and the view the best in Queens.
The victory of Tommy seemed to punctuate
the evenings Chai Celebration. Chai, the eighteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, means
life. It was the eighteenth anniversary of the Queens Bnai Brith house
a multi cultural senior housing wonderland offering a renewal of life.
Good luck, Tommy.