Bobby Goldberg … tireless Jewish leader …

The Tree of Life dinner event at Landerhaven on Jan. 23 was a double- header on all counts: the first such fund raiser sponsored by the Jewish National Fund along with the Ohio-Israel Chamber of Commerce; and "starring" Jewish stalwarts … guest speaker Sen. Joseph Lieberman and honoree, Cleveland's Bobby Goldberg.

Surrounded by cadres of well-wishers as soon as he made his appearance at the cocktail hour, the ever-smiling, heimish and personable senator captivated everyone even before his well-delivered speech to the receptive audience of 600 guests. (See related article on page 16.) His broad-ranging remarks were on target about the agonizing terrorist attacks in Israel and the need for the United States and Israel to stand together "because we have the same fundamental values."

Alan Schonberg served as emcee of the evening. The event, chaired by Harley Gross, John Lewis and Peter Rzepka, also boasted six politically prominent honorary chairpersons and 12 outstanding community leaders as tribute chairs.

Among his numerous leadership roles, Bobby was founding chair of Partnership 2000, building and strengthening our community's relationship with Beit She'an in Israel; a co-founder of Agnon School; and a founding member of the Ohio-Israel Chamber of Commerce.

No tribute was more "booming" and passionate than the one delivered by Chuck Ratner, board chair of the Jewish Community Federation. It was the honoree himself, however, who stole the show with his deeply felt response that captured the essence of what the evening was all about.

Bobby spoke about his increasing passion for Israel, his strong ties with Beit She'an, the deep problems of terrorism, the plight of Palestinians, the urgent need for peace in Israel, the friendly relationship of Israel and Jordan, the significant work of the JNF … and much more. His speech was incredible, as is the man himself.

The event's well-compiled program and ad journal was filled with wonderful expressions of appreciation and gratitude for Bobby. A personal favorite of mine was the one from Sid Domb, Jim Nolan and Fred Berliner: "We looked in the Jewish dictionary under the word 'mensch,' and it had a picture of Bobby Goldberg."

Hitting all the right notes …

Over 2,000 music lovers jammed the rafters at Severance Hall on Jan. 19 to pay tribute to maestro Christoph von Dohnanyi, who is conducting his final season at the Cleveland Orchestra. During intermission, Dick Bogomolny, president of the Musical Arts Association, welcomed the sold-out crowd and introduced Gov. Bob Taft and Mayor Jane Campbell, who presented the maestro with a key to the city, the first of her administration.

But it was von Dohnanyi, honored worldwide for his work recognizing leaders of the German Resistance movement during World War II, who gave the pithiest speech. Quoting his mother's words, "Don't talk, say 'thank you,'" the maestro followed her advice and bowed graciously to the audience.

His real thank-you was the magnificent concert he conducted, ending with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. As the majestic chords thundered to an end, the usually staid Severance Hall crowd leaped to their feet as one, applauding and crying, "Bravo!"

Among those enjoying a reception and dinner that evening for major supporters of the orchestra were Dick Bogomolny and Patricia Kozerefski, Bonnie and Dieter Myers, Margery and Lee Kohrman, and Amy and Steve Hoffman.

And the winner is …

Mitzie Verne, well-known art maven, is still on a high. And with good reason. At the recent Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, her talented grandson, James Franco, was named best actor in a movie made for television for his riveting lead performance as James Dean.

It was thrilling news for the entire family, especially for "Gramma," president of the James Franco Fan Club, which has members all over the country. Franco's burgeoning career started with his role as Dan in the popular NBC-TV series, "Freaks and Geeks," a Steven Spielberg production. He received rave reviews everywhere, including one in The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Franco, 23, is on a roll, with such roles as the homeless son of a cop, played by Robert DeNiro, in "City By the Sea," which will appear on movie screens in April; a major character in the widely heralded "Spider-Man," coming in May; and as a gigolo in "Sonny," directed by Nicholas Cage, currently on location in New Orleans.

Mitzi tells us that the cast of the movie watched the Golden Globe Awards on TV in a bar in New Orleans.

When Franco's name was called, everyone stood up and cheered. The multitalented young actor is also an accomplished artist who recently had a one-man show at the Lacy Gallery in Los Angeles. His paintings are inspired by the well-known painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. He is pictured with the painting he gave to "Gramma Mitzie" for Chanukah when she was visiting the family in Palo Alto. His parents are Douglas and Betsy Verne Franco.

Hats on …

The Mad Hatters of Northeast Ohio recently celebrated their first outing at a tea room in Kirtland, Ohio. The group derives its inspiraton from the poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph, which declares, "When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me" … and amidst the sights and sounds of tea cups clinking, mismatched china and hand-embroidered tablecloths and napkins, more than 20 red-hatted women wearing purple stood out among the organized clutter. The women, all over age 50 and from all parts of Northeast Ohio, are part of a national "disorganization" known as the Red Hat Society … and they get comments and questions wherever they go.

The Mad Hatter chapter is headed up by "Founding Queen Mother" Jan Storti. Some of her cohorts include Gloria Miller, Caroline Chesebrough, Wendy Shapiro, Laine Canfield, Fran Jacobs and Lee Stein. With officers holding titles such as "histarian" and "sergeant in gloves," the group has "no socially redeeming value." It was established for women who have accomplished the things society has "expected" of them and who now just want to have fun! And they do! Lots of it!

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