Dinner at the Waldorf

Weizmann Dinner, a $250 a plate fund-raiser, celebrating Chaim Weizmann’s seventy-third birthday and the completion of the Institute of Physics and Physical Chemistry Building of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, that took place on November 25, 1947 at the Waldorf Astoria and was sponsored by the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute.

Weizmann Institute of Science
Rendering of the development plan of the Weizman Institute of Science from the Weizmann Dinner program, 1947.

Including a concert by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Serge Koussevitzky, the Weizmann Reception and Dinner was “the type of tribute reserved for few mortals.”12,000 at Weismann Dinner Cheer ‘First President of Jewish State’, New York Times, November 26, 1947, p. 6 Or perhaps just the sort of acknowledgement Meyer Weisgal would devise for his esteemed friend and colleague, Chaim Weizmann. At Weisgal’s request, Kurt Weil made a special arrangement of the Hatikvah. The BSO also played The Star-Spangled Banner, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and his Third Symphony. Former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. spoke. Albert Einstein sent a message: “In these days of fateful decision you have presented our case before the world with a vision that no other among us could muster.”2Ibid. An estimated $500,000 was raised to finance construction and support the work of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot. Because the benefit took place 4 days before the United Nations General Assembly would vote on whether the British Mandate in Palestine should be terminated, excitement was palpable. When the chairman of the reception committee, Abraham Feinberg prematurely referred to Weizmann as “the first President of the new Jewish state,”3Ibid. the attendees cheered. Ismar David was among them.

In late October 1947, David was in New York for an extended stay to study printing methods.4David, Ismar, Brief biographical points provided to Cooper Union, 1954. He had arrived in Boston on a Transcontinental & Western flight from Paris on the 16th and would return to Jerusalem on January 12th. Helen Rossi facilitated a meeting with Robert Leslie. He met with Harper Brothers and other publishers and “a known commercial artist.”5David, Ismar, undated letter to Aliza Wirz, 1947. Translated from German. He had time to visit museums, see Edith Piaf in concert, and work diligently, too.6David, Ismar, undated letter to Alisa Wirz, 1947. Translated from German. <em>“Inzwischen bin ich weiter sehr fleißig. Ob der Fleiß an einem Erfolg führen wird, weiß ich nocht nicht.”</em> The work included a design for a book that Ellen Thorbecke wanted to publish.7David, Ismar, undated letter to Aliza Wirz, 1947. Translated from German. <em>Abends Ballin [sic] Thorbecker u. andere neue Bekannte. Das Muster för ein Buch, das Mrs. Thorbecke schreiben u. heraugbringen möchte, ist inzwischen fast fertig geworden.</em> (Did it also include the program for the Weizmann Dinner?) But the trip was otherwise eventful. While in New York, he received word that his mother would be arriving, first in San Francisco, then in New York, on her way to Palestine. It was “like a dream.” He had not seen her for 16 years.8David, Ismar, undated letter to Aliza Wirz, 1947. <em>“Alles wie ein Traum hier nach jenen 16 Jahren.”</em> And he attended the black-tie tribute to Weizmann in a tuxedo he bought from John David on Fifth Avenue. A few days later, he wrote to Alisa Wirz, “The Boston Symphony Orchestra played before and Morgenstern and Weizmann spoke. The Jewish State was the center of both speeches. Almost 4 days of excitement and tension followed. Yesterday, finally, ‘The votes.’”

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