By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO October 5, 2001 In a night that was as much a tribute dinner as it was an awards presentation, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) returned to its roots in the Catskills on Sunday to honor locals and pay respects to those who had passed on in the year since the previous dinner.
The 300 guests sitting in Kutshers main dining room in Monticello were perhaps no more hushed than when images of Liberty native Irving Shapiro flashed across two screens. Shapiro, who passed away several months ago, had been caught on film talking about his long life and his tireless efforts on behalf of the ADL and oppressed people throughout the world.
The moving tribute was followed up by various speakers crediting Shapiro, the 45-year owner of Sullivans Department Store in Liberty and Middletown, with setting in motion various ADL initiatives, including in concert with fellow Liberty native Alan Gerry the William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute on Terrorism and Extremism.
I have some big shoes to fill, remarked Marvin Rappaport, the evenings emcee (which was an Irving Shapiro tradition for many years). My memories of Irv are very special and very personal.
A journal full of anecdotes and fond wishes to Shapiro and his wife Dorothy bespoke that fact. (Actually, Irving first met Dorothy at an ADL event at Grossingers, said Rappaport.)
But the mood was also somber and security tighter than normal at Kutshers due to the recent terrorist attacks only several blocks from the ADLs New York City headquarters.
Irving Shapiro would have been heartbroken to witness [the World Trade Centers destruction], said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, who envisioned Shapiro dusting off his old World War II uniform and heading into the battle against the terrorists. He was a proud member of what Tom Brokaw called the greatest generation.
Tribute chair and award presenter Alan Gerry added that the attacks had hit the ADL hard, too especially since a prior award winner was lost in the collapse of the Twin Towers.
John ONeill, a 1995 William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award winner, had taken a job as the World Trade Centers chief of security just a few days prior to its destruction on September 11.
Ironically, he had just retired in August as the head of the FBIs Counterterrorism Section, through which he had led the investigations into Osama bin Ladens bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa and the USS Cole in Yemen.
ONeill was last seen running back into one of the towers to help other evacuees.
Now, said Foxman, the efforts Shapiro and Gerry started in 1987 to counter terrorism have never had a clearer reason for being.
This is the business of the ADL: to fight hatred, he explained. It is our obligation not to give terrorism the victory by stopping the regular activities of our life.
And so the dinner moved on to honor Elizabeth Berman with the Americanism Award and Major Alan Martin with the William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award.
Berman is the president of the Center for Discoverys board, a group devoted to assisting those with mental and physical difficulties in living a full, fruitful life. The Harris-based organization, also known as the Sullivan Diagnostic Treatment Center, is one of the countys largest employers.
Elizabeth Bermans devotion, people skills and driving force . . . are known to all of you, said award presenter and friend Joan Farrow. Our world is a better place because Elizabeth is here.
We have to just keep fighting so people stop hating. To stop hate, you must teach love, said Berman, who added that the terrorist attacks had changed her original speech. Maybe my name is on this award, but it really belongs to those thousands of people who wont ever be able to have their name on it.
Gerry presented the award named after his parents to Major Martin, who has spent several decades as a New York State trooper (including a stint as commander of the Liberty barracks) and is now the head of Troop F, the Middletown-based unit of the State Police that oversees Sullivan, Ulster and Orange counties, among others.
Alan Martin is a professional if there ever was one, said Gerry.
But Major Martin, like Berman, was sobered by recent events.
Its difficult to get up here and accept this award, he commented to the crowd. I will say this to you: Ill spend the rest of my life and career trying to earn it.
And hed be following in the famous footsteps of one Irving Shapiro, who, as Foxman recalled, was never content to be silent in the face of evil.
We in the ADL were very, very fortunate that Irving Shapiro decided to hang his hat on . . . the entity that is the ADL, he concluded. And if Ive learned anything, Irving, its not to compete with you.