Steven Mnuchin, Caitlyn Jenner and a Rabbi Walk Into an Auction
(Bloomberg) -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin bid on a Rao’s chef cooking a glatt kosher meal in his home. Caitlyn Jenner bid on a lunch with Michael Steinhardt.
Auctions at galas can be tedious but not at the sixth annual Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala, held Thursday night at New York’s Plaza Hotel. The World Values Network, which organized the event, was founded by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and advocates for Israel.
Mnuchin and Jenner shared a table with former White House communications chief Sean Spicer. All three were honored and spoke after the auction: Jenner gave props to Israel for its acceptance of transgender people, including in the military; Spicer said it was a treat to express his own support of Israel versus doing so as a spokesman. And Mnuchin received the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson Award for his work in combating terrorism and those who finance it.
“We have over 700 people at Treasury that are focused on sanctions and sanctions management," he said in his speech. “As a member of the National Security Council, I’ve been integrally involved in the strategy on North Korea, and we have put more sanctions on North Korea in the last year than the prior administrations have done in the last 20 years.”
Referring to President Donald Trump’s agreement to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Mnuchin brought up the president’s tweet about sanctions remaining in place until an agreement on denuclearization is reached. “You know, including Sean, how much he loves his Twitter account," Mnuchin said.
The evening started with some comedy about Trump from Jewish humorist Elon Gold. “I’d be nervous if Trump was president of my shul," he said, breaking into a Trump impression that referenced a Jewish blessing, traditional foods and the wall separating men from women in Orthodox synagogues. “We are going to make the shul great again, the kiddushes have been a disaster. There is no hot cholent, where are the hot kugels? We are going to build a mechitzah wall, let the women pay for it."
The night’s program was as overloaded as the dessert buffet: Steinhardt, co-founder of Birthright Israel, presented an award to Adar Gandelsman, a former Miss Universe Israel; U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis and New Jersey lawyer Scott Piekarsky were honored; and Boteach toasted his wife for being married to him for almost 30 years, and giving him nine children. (Jenner quipped, “Debbie, you are the bomb! I have 10, but it took three women.”)
The upshot was that the Treasury secretary sat for a long while without being served his dinner, an oversight Boteach fixed. The rabbi grabbed a plate from a waiter and deposited it in front of Mnuchin so he could enjoy the brisket, falafel-coated chicken steak and couscous.
To be sure, the waiters had tried, but they had trouble getting through the crowds gathered around his table. They were mostly clustered around Jenner, though Mnuchin (and his security detail) had visitors, too. Elisha Wiesel, chief information officer at Goldman Sachs (a title Mnuchin once held) and Jerry Levin, former head of Revlon Inc., got Mnuchin up for brief hellos and handshakes. Wiesel earlier presented awards named for his late father, Elie Wiesel.
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