Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist and deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, Stephens was also – at age 28 – the youngest editor-in-chief ever of The Jerusalem Post.
Laced with humor and clever allusions, Stephens’ message during his speech at the gala was blunt and unwavering. He said that despite the temptation, the United States could not turn away from the Middle East because, as evidenced by Paris, Brussels and San Bernardino, what happens in the Middle East does not stay in the Middle East. Instead, “we need to be a predictable and stable presence in the region,” he continued.
According to Stephens, rather than focusing on lofty goals, like the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East, the next president must decide what eventualities are unacceptable in the region and then figure out how to prevent them. “The goal is to keep nightmares at bay, not to make dreams come true,” he said.
Regarding the Palestinian issue, Stephens supports the idea of a Palestinian state. However, he says that statehood is not an option as long as the Palestinians remain committed to the destruction of Israel.
He concluded his remarks by saying, “Israel didn’t come into existence to showcase Jewish victimization, but to end it.”While Mideast policy was the focus of the keynote address, the rest of the gala was, as Gratz President Joy Goldstein said, “an evening of thanks.” And, the college had many reasons to be thankful. First, as announced by former CBS 3 news anchor Pat Ciarrocchi, who served as the emcee for the evening, Gratz College had received the largest single gift in its 120-year history – a bequest of approximately $1 million. Described by Gratz President Joy Goldstein as “generous and visionary,” the gift came in the form of The Benjamin and Dorothy Abrams Scholarship Fund. It was bequeathed by Berenice Abrams in memory of her parents, with the goal of providing scholarships to teachers working in the field of Jewish education. From the tribute book to the event speakers, the evening was also filled with accolades for the gala’s honoree, David Weinstein, the outgoing chair of the Gratz College Board of Governors, who was being recognized at the gala for his years of service to the institution. In their tribute page, Beverly Rubman and Mark Goldfus — who co-chaired the gala with Jo and Sander White — said, “David Weinstein may be a darn good lawyer, but he is an even better Jew.”
A respected attorney and founding member of the Philadelphia law firm Weinstein Kitchenoff & Asher LLC, Weinstein has dedicated much of his life to service in both the Jewish and legal communities. He has worked the land in Israel, smuggled prayer books to Jews in the former Soviet Union, pursued actions imbued with the public interest in his law practice and held positions of lay leadership at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood.When it was Weinstein’s turn to speak, he thanked friends and family and the gala co-chairs and sponsors. Given the depth of his personal commitment to Jewish education, he said, “Gratz College has honored me daily for the last six years in furthering a goal I hold most dear.” Although his tenure as chair of the Gratz College Board of Governors is coming to a close, Weinstein will stay on as a member of the board.
Gratz College also expressed its gratitude to Ken and Betsy Plevan for sponsoring the gala in memory of their son Jeff, an alumnus who earned two master’s degrees from the college. Three years ago, Jeff died suddenly of a heart attack — at the age of 36 — while on his way to the 2013 Gratz gala. In the tribute book, President Goldstein described Jeff as “a beloved alumnus of the College, whose passion for life, the Jewish community and Gratz was inspirational.”
From foreign policy advice to heartfelt thanks to food stations and butlered hors d’oeuvres, the Gratz College Jeffrey B. Plevan Annual Gala was a special evening for the Gratz community.
Photos by Brad Gellman, BG Memories Photography