IT IS perhaps no surprise that in a city like New York there should be a Jewish candidate for mayor to succeed the existing Jewish incumbent, Michael Bloomberg. And Tom Allon is very Jewish. He has a Hebrew name (his Holocaust survivor father changed it from Eichenbaum, which means oak tree, to Allon, the equivalent in Hebrew). He has a large family in Israel, speaks Hebrew and was educated at a yeshivah. Allon is also a staunch supporter of Israel — in fact he visited the country last week
Allon defines himself as a Cuomo Democrat — a reference to a former New York governor — and he has the support of the city’s Liberal Party. Although an outsider at present, he feels he has a realistic chance of winning one of the world’s highest profile mayoral races.
He is a successful businessman in the media industry but he is not in Bloomberg’s league. Allon’s early background was in journalism. He worked at the New York Times before moving to the West Side Spirit newspaper. It was there, when in his late 20s, that he was offered the chance to become the paper’s publisher, in charge of the business. This he did with such aplomb that he led the group as it expanded to 23 titles, then oversaw a management buyout of four of those publications.
Allon, who is 50, is running for mayor primarily, he says, because he is concerned about education in the city. In an interview with the Times of Israel, he said: “I feel that New York has been very good to me. My parents arrived with no family and no money. They were beneficiaries of New York’s education and housing laws, including subsidised housing for new immigrants. They got a good education. New York helped them and it helped me. Now it’s time to give back.”
Allon is a husband and a father of three. He met his wife, Janet Wickenhaver when at The West Side Spirit, where she was an associate editor. Today, he lives very near to where he grew up on the Upper West Side. He says he considered living away from New York, but decided that the city was the best place for work and family.
His visit to Israel has given Allon the opportunity to comment on matters of concern to Israelis. They will like
much of what he has to say, as will Zionistic New Yorkers. As he stated on Twitter: “New York needs a mayor like me who thinks like an Israeli. Tough and always ready to defend his people.”
In this vein, he believes that Israel should not be condemned should it choose to strike against Iran’s nuclear reactor. “If Israel’s vital interests require a military strike I would support that.”
With a Jewish population of one million, Allon thinks he is preaching to the converted. He also believes that it is symbolically and practically important for the city to have a Jewish mayor.
As the child of immigrants, he supports open borders, commenting that, without unfettered immigration, he and his family would not be where they are now.
Fundraising will be more of an issue for Allon than for Bloomberg. He is expecting to raise six to seven million dollars, which is about a tenth of what Bloomberg was able to deploy. However, if there is to be a Jewish mayor of the Big Apple next year, Allon is, at present, the only show in town.
My family has long followed an Israelistyle start to the week. We accepted years ago that Sundays firmly belong to Camp Simcha, whether we are running an event for children and families, a speaking engagement beckons or, as this Sunday mandates, an essential hospital visit.
The day will surely be high on the emotionally demanding scale but I gladly make my way to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where, sadly, I am a familiar face. I visit a family who admirably find the strength to live through a parent’s worst nightmare — watching their son Jake undergo heavy doses of chemotherapy with particularly difficult side effects.
I weigh in with a range of crucial, positive support, encouraging Jake’s family with details of some upcoming feel-good activities for him and his sister. I also check that both of their Big Brother and Big Sister volunteers are giving the children one-onone attention and fun and I’m delighted to hear both children are benefiting hugely from this and eagerly anticipating their next visits. I’m always truly amazed at how our 120 volunteers — aged between 18 and 23 — have an indescribable magic and sparkle that connects these young children to hope.
Monday kicks off with a staff meeting — even though our team is predominantly part-time and voluntary, they all wish to know and support the latest developments. Job done, I just make it on time to discuss details with a Camp Simcha supporter who is hosting a “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” later this year.
That evening, our medical advisory panel convenes. The panel is comprised of volunteer senior doctors and specialists — they are yet another group of volunteers who never fail to leave me in awe. As a charitable organisation that exists to help children with life threatening illnesses, we carefully discuss and assess whether potential new referrals meet the criteria set by our trustees. Wednesday brings yet another new referral when a social worker informs us about a baby recently born with a serious genetic disease. I immediately make contact and arrange to visit the family. Later, I pop into the “House” to welcome our new troupe of “hospital clowns in training” who are itching to start their work. Yes, yet another group of inspirational and talented people who successfully bring smiles to hundreds of children every year across many hospitals.
Massage, hair, and make-up, are not exactly the type of pastimes I normally confer over but Thursday afternoon finds me discussing the ingredients of a unique special spa day for the mothers of Camp Simcha’s children. I’m inspired by this event, which will take place in June, because it’s about acknowledging the constant stress that many of our parents live with, and about doing something to give them strength and respite.
One last round of meetings on Friday and a visit to one of our parents with one of our doctors to discuss her child’s ongoing needs and then Shabbat arrives. It is a pleasure to review a week making such a difference to the lives of so many people. “ Neville Goldschneider is chief executive of Camp Simcha