The New Jewish Home Celebrates 8 Remarkable Over 80
Passover Issue, 2017
By: Henry J. Levy
At its fourth annual Eight Over Eighty benefit gala, The New Jewish Home honored eight New Yorkers who, in their ninth and tenth decades, continue to live lives of remarkable achievement, vitality and civic engagement. The event, at the Mandarin Oriental New York on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, drew 430 guests and raised more than $1.1 million for the nonprofit's rehabilitation, skilled nursing, and home-health programs, which serve 13,000 older adults of all faiths and ethnicity each year.
The honorees, each of whom was celebrated in a video vignette, were style icon and self-described geriatric starlet Iris Apfel, 95; dance legend Carmen de Lavallade, 85; civil rights leader and businessman Vernon E. Jordan, 81; activist and television pioneer Norman Lear, 94; culinary star Jacques Pépin, 81; philanthropist and business leader Morris W. Offit, 80; and New York City power couple Barbara and Donald Tober, 81 and 85, respectively. These men and women, the best of the best in their individual spheres of achievement, are movers and shakers who continue to contribute and to make waves, in the process showing the world that trailblazing is ageless.
In her remarks, Audrey Weiner, president and CEO of The New Jewish Home, called the honorees “eight unstoppable forces of nature” and said that “through their humor, their passions, their intellects, and their energy, they are truly showing us what it means to age like New Yorkers.”
All of the honorees were charming and took delight in engaging with the attendees. It seemed like an evening where old friends were having a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and conversations took place so easily and naturally that even if you never met someone before there was an opportunity to know them. The videos also showcased the human side and down home spirit and humor of those that were being honored. It was unlike so many fundraisers in how understated and casual the evening flowed and an outsider could not detect how so much money was raised when there was no direct appeal to giving. If this is the same way in which the New Jewish Home makes the people they serve feel so much at home, then they are certainly doing something right and all the praise they receive is justified.
Each of those that were honored provided a little glimpse into either something significant in their lives or a personal philosophy by which they live. For example, Carmen de Lavallade told us that some people bloom early and some late, but she likes blooming late because there is always someplace for her to go and she is never satisfied being in one place. Morris Offet said among his interests are Johns Hopkins, philanthropy, the Jewish community and collecting flags and the key word for those in their 80's is relevance. Jon LaPook, who represented his father-in-law Norman Lear, remarked that Lear would have said that the best thing about turning eighty is the sex ... especially the one in the spring. Vernon Jordan had everyone's attention when he said that he used to be a chauffeur for a prominent bank president, Mr. Maddox of Atlanta and each day when he drove him home, in a 1940 LaSalle, for his afternoon nap there was an opportunity to go to the magnificent library and read. Well, one day Mr. Maddox came into the library, saw Vernon in his chair, holding one of his books and said, “What are you doing?” The answer was that he was reading and Maddox was not only amazed that he could read but perplexed when told that Vernon was also attending the University. Years later, in 1961, when Vernon was on television receiving an award for his role as one of the attorneys that helped integrate the University of Georgia and escort the first black students onto the campus, Mr. Maddox's nurse remarked, “Do you know who that lawyer is?” Maddox did not and his nurse told him that he was his old chauffeur. Maddox promptly replied, “I always knew that n____r was up to no good.” Vernon said that was a special moment in his life.
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About THE NEW JEWISH HOME: Serving New Yorkers of all faiths and ethnicities for 168 years, The New Jewish Home is transforming eldercare as we know it. One of the nation's largest and most diversified not‐for‐profit geriatric health and rehabilitation systems, Jewish Home serves 13,000 older adults each year, in their homes, on campuses in Manhattan and Westchester, and in senior housing residences in The Bronx, through short-term rehabilitation, long‐term skilled nursing, senior housing, and a wide range of home health programs. Jewish Home believes that high quality care and personal dignity are everyone's right, regardless of background or economic circumstances. Technology, innovation, applied research and new models of care put The New Jewish Home at the vanguard of eldercare providers across the country. For more information, visit www.jewishhome.org.
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- The idiosyncratic fashion sense of self-described geriatric starlet Iris Apfel has captivated fashion lovers around the world and led filmmaker Albert Maysles to make her the subject of “Iris,” his 2014 documentary. Ms. Apfel honed her personal style during her many years of traveling the world with her husband, Carl, on behalf of their textile firm, Old World Weavers. In 2005 the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art honored Ms. Apfel with “Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel,” an exhibition about her approach to fashion.
- The career of dancer, choreographer, and theater, film and television actress Carmen de Lavallade has been unusually varied and prolific, filled with collaborations with some of the greatest artists of the age. Among other achievements she has had ballets created for her by Lester Horton, Geoffrey Holder (her husband of 59 years), Alvin Ailey, Glen Tetley, John Butler and Agnes de Mille; danced with the Metropolitan Opera and the American Ballet Theater; choreographed for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Philadanco and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; and appeared in movies and many off-Broadway productions.
- Vernon E. Jordan is a civil rights leader, business consultant and attorney whose many accomplishments include leading the National Urban League and the United Negro College Fund; holding critical positions at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council, the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, and the Southern Regional Council; serving as Chairman of the Clinton Presidential Transition Team; and receiving a variety of presidential appointments.
- Norman Lear has enjoyed a long career in television and film, his television work including the creation of such groundbreaking series as All in the Family, Maude, Good Times and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. In 1999 President Clinton awarded Mr. Lear the National Medal of Arts noting that he had “held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it.” As accomplished a philanthropist and political and social activist as he is a television pioneer, Mr. Lear founded the People for the American Way, the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and the Business Enterprise Trust.
- Financier and philanthropist Morris W. Offit leads Offit Capital and founded and served as CEO of OFFITBANK, which later merged with Wachovia. He is a trustee of Johns Hopkins University (Chairman of the Board 1990-1996), the Jewish Museum (Chairman of the Board 1987-1991), the New-York Historical Society, and The Museum of the American Revolution, opening on April 17 in Philadelphia. Mr. Offit served a three-year term as president of UJA-Federation of New York and helped shape The New Jewish Home's Eight Over Eighty event as one its inaugural co-chairs.
- World-renowned culinary genius Jacques Pépin was chef to three French heads of state and cooked at New York's historic Le Pavillon restaurant. His many other achievements include writing 25 books, founding The American Institute of Wine and Food, writing for The New York Times and Food & Wine magazine, and hosting many award-winning public television series. Having received three of the French government's highest honors he is a Chevalier de L'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur, a Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and a Chevalier de L'Ordre du Mérite Agricole.
- Barbara and Donald Tober are a New York City power couple. Mrs. Tober is a former longtime publishing executive who was editor-in-chief of Bride's for 30 years. She is president of Acronym, which invests in art-related projects, and heads the Global Leadership Council of the Museum of Arts and Design, whose board she led for 15 years. Donald Tober is chairman and CEO of Sugar Foods Corporation, a co-founder and an executive committee member of Citymeals-on-Wheels, and a Trustee Emeritus of The Culinary Institute of America. The couple are long-time supporters of many New York City cultural organizations.