As the new Mayor of New York, Bill De Blasio, was sworn into office this week, one Jewish community stalwart took time to remember the achievements of the outgoing head of City Hall, Michael Bloomberg.
Abraham H Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which monitors antisemitism, said about Mr Bloomberg: “During his tenure, he remained a staunch advocate for the state of Israel and demonstrated an admirable passion for the Jewish people.
“He will go down in the books, not just as one of New York’s most towering and influential leaders, but as someone whose insightful voice was heard throughout America and around the world.”
As well as leading the fight against attempts to delegitimise Israel, Mr Bloomberg has been a champion of liberal-Jewish values.
In 2011, he conducted a ceremony for the first Jewish gay marriage in New York at his Upper East Side residence. Despite the presence of a group of Orthodox Jewish protesters nearby, he told the couple, John Feinblatt and Jonathan Mintz, who both worked at City Hall: “Today, surrounded by family and friends, you are making history.”
Mr Bloomberg also defended proposals to build a mosque near Ground Zero, the site of the former World Trade Centre. The ADL vigorously opposed the plan.
“While we did respectfully disagree with Mr Bloomberg on some issues, those differences have never put a damper on our utmost respect and friendship that we share,” said Mr Foxman.
In October, Mr Bloomberg received the first $1 million Genesis Prize — also known as the “Jewish Nobel Peace Prize” — that is awarded to “exceptional people whose values and achievements will inspire the next generations of Jews”.
A major philanthropist, Mr Bloomberg signed a pledge with George Soros and Mark Zuckerberg in 2010 to donate at least half of his wealth to charity. In 2011, he gave £172 million to 970 different charities, including the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged.
The billionaire businessman, with a fortune estimated at $31bn, founded media company Bloomberg LP. He will go on to lead Bloomberg Associates, a consulting organisation which will advise countries on urban policy.