It was exactly thirty years ago that Beverly Hills philanthropist, Steve Meadow, was involved in supporting Tel Aviv University. Over the decades his support of Israel has not diminished and morphed into specific areas different than most. He supported the Israeli Police special anti-terrorism unit, essentially becoming their godfather and making sure they have everything they need and more.
At one point, the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a Federal Agency of the Department of the Treasury) issued him a license, the only one in Beverly Hills, due to some special guns he possessed manufactured for Israel. Steve was the guardian angel of this unit, but he also supported many other endeavors, in the military and elsewhere.
I remember as an officer in GHQ being invited to the office of the major general who headed the branch in which I served for a “coffee with Steve.” Apparently, in the decades since, his support of the armed forces has only intensified over the years. So did his spheres of influence.
When Steve visited Israel, Jerusalem in particular, different units used each visit as a training tool, providing security for VIPs (the likes of heads of state and others). I remember the stories even before the First or Second Intifadas, at times when there were no “Palestinians” who so “craved peace.” There were only enemies who sought Israel’s destruction and stopped at nothing. The danger was real and felt.
We were transported to a world of spies and espionage, secret service and very special units. Except, this was reality and Steve was in the middle of this high-action movie. He sent “care packages,” sometimes airplanes full of special equipment for training or recreation. I once joined some agents (of an agency one does not mention) who went to the airport to pick up special firearms. All doors were miraculously opened, all security walls suddenly nonexistent.
Somehow, Steve managed to touch the very nerve center of Israel, the one usually quiet and always behind the scenes.
One person’s philanthropy leaves a mark. The sum total of many philanthropists’ efforts has helped ensure Israel’s survival. Each of them touches a different aspect of life, some visible, others covert, some made the Israel Museum in Jerusalem what it is (a couple here in Beverly Hills, Herta and Paul Amir), others shaped university after university (another local couple, Max Webb and his late wife), a particular university (Guilford and Diane Glazer of Beverly Hills and their presence at Ben Gurion University) or the Friends of IDF (Leo David and his wife, brother and niece). Still others support hospitals and health services and the list goes on and on.
There is an unusual concentration of philanthropists who support Israel in Beverly Hills. Their power and generosity span field after field, the very being of Israel.
Their generation is getting older, some not leaving their mansions any longer, still others bedridden, unable to communicate or command as they did throughout their lives. Their names can be seen on familiar buildings and their legacies will continue long after their deaths.
It is a very exclusive club with many members, but also a very secluded club, despite garnering much attention. They are bombarded with requests for money every hour of every day, from local, Israeli, Progressive and clandestine causes. They give but are under constant pressure to give even more.
That pushes them to a point where gatekeepers protect them from hordes of money-seekers and, as Daphne Ziman, an Israeli-American member of the club, says are no longer masters of their own time. Others read their e-mails, take charge of their schedules and ensure their every need is met.
One person is so used to people calling for money, she often sounds rude: “If you want money, the answer is no!” It is often difficult to distinguish between true intentions and the craving for money, so many become distrustful.
We think that having enormous sums of money at one’s fingertips is a blessing. Sometimes, it can be a curse.
Thus they socialize with one another and share a mutual skeptic and sarcastic look at the world, a world that is quite unique and different from what normal people know or experience. They share a way of life we can only dream about, where all things are possible and wishes are granted.
Today they gathered to say goodbye to one of their own.
Thirty years ago he too was involved with Steve Meadow and Tel Aviv University. His philanthropy took a different path and he offered two occasions that shaped his life.
As a child just over ten year old, he lived through Kristallnacht. A group of Jewish kids gathered with baseball bats to protect the neighborhood. It was insufficient, and he remembered vividly for the rest of his life the fear that engulfed him. He remembered listening to the radio broadcasts and being terrified.
His son described his father in November, 1938: “Too young to stand guard, but old enough to understand.” He asked, says the son, “What are the rich Jews doing to protect us?” (One of those rich Jews was his uncle.) It is a question that still bothers many today. One of those in attendance recently explained why he and his wife are such major supporters of Stand With Us, an organization dedicated to fighting lies against the Jewish people.
They answered: So that our children and grandchildren, and their children after them, will be able to answer the question: “But what did you do, and why did no one do anything to fight the darkness engulfing the world once again?”
At the end of the Second World War, the army sent him to Germany, where he visited concentration camps. The image journeyed with him for the next six and a half decades. The world managed to rid itself of this memory and is now on the verge of committing the same sins again. He could not.
The camps, like everything else, looked ordinary. He wondered where unspeakable evil resided, and concluded that it resided in people’s minds. He understood it was ideology that needs to be combated, preferably in its early stages before it metastasized into boundless evil deeds.
His childhood memory of Kristallnacht and early adulthood memory of the Camps of Nazi Germany shaped his future. He accepted Israel as the protector of the Jewish people and realized it is imperative to build a vibrant and secure Jewish homeland.
There is probably not an Israel-related start-up in the last two decades that Newt Becker did not support. His son mentioned fifty organizations their foundation supports.
“He would do his part to protect the Jewish people,” said Newt’s son as he recounted his father’s early memories, “he did much more than his part. No one can fill his shoes. His legacy will continue.”
“As someone who knows the details, I can tell you that the organizations we support expose the truth, educate and inform in order to wake up the leaders to combat ideologies before they develop into evil doings.”
Seated among the mourners were couple after couple of major donors who give in the six and seven figures constantly. I will not try to describe what they may see when they look around, but I can describe what I saw.
As I observed, one thing became immediately clear: They will leave like any other human being, but their money stays here. Their good deeds and bad deeds will all be accounted for, none forgotten. But even before their departure, old age and sickness will not differentiate. They may have better accommodations, more caretakers and less fear of not having creature comforts, but what good are these comforts when a person no longer has control over his or her own life?
God endowed each of these couples with a particular gift, a challenge and an assignment. He gave them immense resources, most mere humans never see, and complete latitude to do as they wish. Yes, there are certain confines of law and taxation, benefits and honor and even bigger egos, but there is true goodness and amazing resolve.
Each is determined to influence their cause. It can be a hospital or university, Israel’s perception in the world or information dissemination. For instance, what are the Arabs really saying when they speak in Arabic, one may ask. Newt Becker was a major donor of Jerusalem-based MEMRI that translates from Arabic and Farsi.
Another example was fighting the lie that precipitated the Second Intifada. It was Newt Becker and another couple from Los Angeles that took it upon themselves to support Philippe Karsenty, the French Jew who single handedly fought to bring the truth to light of day.
The “Palestinians” made a staging for international audiences of a father protecting his 12 year old son against a barrage of bullets fired by Israeli soldiers.
The soldiers continued shooting for 45 minutes. There was not a single drop of blood, but the son apparently died in the hands of his father. Did I mention that the “dead” son had to readjust his position during the shoot and that physics would prove no bullet of the Israelis could actually hit either the father or the son?
This father and son duo (al Dura) became a propaganda tool and served as the ruse for the Second Intifada. Hundreds of Israelis were murdered as a result and thousands of innocent Israelis maimed in terrorist attacks.
Israel and the Jewish communities fought Philippe Karsenty who made it his life mission to stop the lies. Today he is more or less a celebrity, but for years he was a contagious disease, a Jew who dared to speak up and demand the world recognize the truth.
It is very “Jewish” and regrettably now “Israeli” not to disturb the waters, to allow the status quo to continue uninterrupted, to stand silent while Kristallnacht occurs. So it was Newt Becker and the other local philanthropists who supported Karsenty and his efforts.
Many are guilty of doing nothing, of believing storms will pass if we only give more land to the “Palestinians.” They refuse to accept a reality MEMRI battles to expose. Thus Newt made sure they know the truth, in the Arabs’ own words.
A person may leave, but Foundations exist and continue the legacy of the founder. However, many of the beneficiaries will no longer know the originators, their reasoning, priorities or philosophies. It was just eleven months ago Newt was looking at institutionalizing what is important and measuring effectiveness. He looked older then, suddenly much older than I have ever known him.
Newt, a giant, is gone. Part of a generation gathers all too often of late to say their goodbyes, and the next generation of philanthropists will soon also grow old. They are already grandparents, and although they feel young and indestructible, life never stands still.
Is a new generation of major-givers being groomed to take over, for five, ten and twenty years from now, or is it He-above who is expected to take care of things as time passes?
Today a riddle was solved for me. There were early memories that were so powerful they left an imprint, opportunities presented that made a person rich and powerful beyond belief and used with wisdom and care. He took care of a fragile young country, reborn after millennia of dormancy and entrusted us with a task to continue, with much work on our plate.
Now more than ever, we must ensure evil is defeated. We must gather round, all who care about Israel, we who are afraid one day our sons and daughters, and their children and grandchildren, will ask “but what did you do? Where were you? Where were all the other rich and powerful Jews? Why did they not do anything? Why did they not fight?”
Too many of today’s Jews are busy aiding and abetting Israel’s enemies. Good intentions, but completely misguided, at a time we can afford it least.
Newt Becker asked this question in 1938. It is 2012 and Newt has departed. When the next Kristallnacht happens again, tomorrow or in a month, in a year or two, gather and fight back. We must hope it is not too late and we are not left to battle an army with only baseball bats.
Remember the legacy: We stand together and we fight together. The Partisans did so. Those at Warsaw Ghetto did so. Israel did so in each of her wars since the War of Independence. We have no other choice-we must stand as one to survive.
We must continue to support the only Jewish Homeland because it is our task on this earth.
Stand up and fight back before it is too late. To your last breath, to the last drop of blood. Fight for your people, for your family, for the history, present and future of the Jewish People.