LOS ANGELES (Dec. 13)
In one of the more unusual events in the colorful history of American Jewish testimonial banquets, a posthumous Bar Mitzvah was held Tuesday evening for Dr. Armand Hammer, the billionaire oil tycoon, art collector, philanthropist and free-lance diplomat who died Monday in Los Angeles at the age of 92.
The dinner had been planned well before his short, fatal illness, and organizers decided to go through with the event as a memorial tribute to Hammer.
About 800 people attended the dinner, including delegations from the Jerusalem College of Technology in Israel and the Pacific Jewish Center, an Orthodox synagogue in Los Angeles. The dinner’s proceeds of several hundred thousand dollars will benefit the two institutions.
The Bar Mitzvah ceremony for Hammer, who was raised in a non-religious home, was to have marked his identification with the Jewish people.
Hammer was also to have lit the first night’s Chanukah candle. His place was taken by his grandson, Michael Hammer, a vice president of Occidental Petroleum Corp, the company his grandfather had built into the 14th-largest industrial concern in the United States.
Hammer was also to have received, for the first time, a Hebrew name, and Zvi Weinberger, head of the Jerusalem College of Technology, announced it as Avraham Yehuda Maccabee.
The last part of the name was linked to the interpretation of Maccabee, which means “hammer.”
In the main talk of the evening, Guilford Glazer, a longtime friend and associate of Hammer, alluded to Hammer’s lifelong efforts for detente between the United States and the Soviet Union. “The Russians will miss him as much as we do,” he said.
Referring to Hammer’s phenomenal success in turning failing companies into highly profitable ones. Glazer said that “even now, Dr. Hammer is helping God to reorganize and expand.”