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‘succah in the Sky’

For the past few years there has been a hubbub of activity on top of the 50-story Grace Building in midtown Manhattan during the week of Succoth. A steady stream of visitors flock into the “Succah in the Sky” to participate in the holiday proceedings amidst the lulavim and esrogim. Each day, various Jewish religious and secular organizations take pride and pleasure in having their representatives partake in luncheon gatherings and listen to speakers discuss the meaning and values of Judaism.

The succah has been built for the last five years by Jack D. Weiler, chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee and a member of the firm which built and operates the building, Swig, Weiler and Arnow. This week, one of the highlights was an address by Israeli Ambassador Chaim Herzog to leaders of the JDC. Weiler presided.

Under constant attack in the UN “by terrorists accusing us of terrorism, police states accusing us of police state tactics, racists accusing us of racism and oppressive nations accusing us of oppression.” Herzog could not help comparing the goals and achievements of Israel with some of its tormentors.

ISRAEL AND ITS TORMENTORS

“I think of what our civilization and our people stand for.” he said. “What our country has done under the most impossible conditions. When I look at those countries and consider the hundreds of millions of poverty-stricken human beings, the millions in prison, in concentration camps, the lack of education, the disease, the malnutrition, and I look at our small and, from the point of view of size, insignificant little country, backed by the Jewish people and all that we stand for in the world today, consider the civilization that we have created, the pluralistic society which, despite all its problems, is a model for most of the world today, I am proud.”

Continuing, Herzog declared: “I consider how we treated our refugees throughout the ages, particularly over the past 30 years, with reference to what the Joint Distribution Committee has done. I compare that with the fate of half a million Arab refugees who are maintained by public charity, particularly American charity, to this day, and whose brethren have not got the time to rise from the gambling tables of Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, where they are gambling away billions of petrodollars, to look after their own people, I realize what a civilized people we are. I realize what we represent and I am proud.”

Among the distinguished guests from Israel were Avraham Harman, president of the Hebrew University and former Ambassador from Israel to the United States, and Mrs. Harman. Robert Arnow, chairman of the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Jewish Philanthropies Joint Campaign, cited the importance of the current campaigns of the United Jewish Appeal and urged greater support. The UJA provides the bulk of JDC’s annual budget, which this year will exceed $35 million.

On top of the building, which offers a panoramic view of Manhattan and New Jersey, a gentle breeze caressed the visitors as they left; The “Succah in the Sky” seemed to signify that the eternal and indominatable will of Jews to assert their heritage and identity and to continually rededicate themselves to the values of Judaism is a simultaneous transcending of the mundane work-a-day world and involvement in the shaping of world affairs.

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