By Paula Baroff
A year after featuring a man who was mulling a Democratic run for president, Ahavath Achim Synagogue’s Eizenstat Lecture will feature a Republican who toyed with the idea of a third-party presidential campaign.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be the speaker at the 28th annual lecture Tuesday, July 19, at 7:30 p.m. Vice President Joe Biden, at the height of speculation over his presidential campaign plans, delivered the 27th lecture in September.
“Michael Bloomberg is one of the most remarkable and accomplished people that we’ve had, in the sense that the breadth of what he’s done in his business and public career is really unmatched by anyone,” said Stuart Eizenstat, the Atlanta native and former ambassador to the European Union who sponsors the lecture in memory of his wife and parents. He cited the Bloomberg financial media company, market data machine and news source. “The name Bloomberg for anyone in the business and financial community is associated with these remarkable products.”
Previous lecturers include Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.
Eizenstat, who is friends with Bloomberg, was enthusiastic in a phone interview Wednesday, May 25, about his personal accomplishments and what the Boston native and Johns Hopkins University alumnus will bring to the lecture.
“He’s served three terms as mayor of New York City and is widely credited with rejuvenating the city, remarkably lowering its crime, leading economic growth and development, and without any shade of scandal and a complete model of integrity,” Eizenstat said.
Rather than the usual lecture format, this year will feature a conversation style; more informal, it will enable the speakers to be more open and cover many subjects. Instead of talking to the audience about a single topic, as a lecture normally would, Bloomberg and Eizenstat will hold a conversation about many issues.
“He has strong opinions of all the issues of the day, and we will talk about his remarkable career and what it was like to be the mayor of the biggest city in the U.S. He will talk about all of it,” Eizenstat said.
Another change this year is the timing. Because of Ahavath Achim’s planned sanctuary renovation, the lecture cannot take place during the fall, when Eizenstat said he would have preferred it and when it usually occurs. September before the renovation is too close to the holidays, and they wanted to stay away from Congress’ August vacation, so they settled on July.
Eizenstat was able to work around the hitch with the timing, and Bloomberg was able to schedule it amid his busy schedule as entrepreneur, political figure and philanthropist.
Eizenstat noted Bloomberg’s philanthropy as one of his major accomplishments: “He has given more than a billion dollars to Johns Hopkins University alone, particularly in the medical and science research areas. He has supported climate change initiatives and gun control initiatives with his philanthropy.”
All of that could be brought up in the lecture, along with Bloomberg’s political career and “very close” run for president. The event takes place during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and a week before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Besides Bloomberg’s accomplishments, a major reason he was chosen this year is his general personality, Eizenstat said. “He is a wonderful family person, and he is an extraordinarily good speaker, as people will find out — strong opinions strongly stated.”
Bloomberg’s strong opinions about an array of issues are a reason for the change from a lecture format to a conversation because he would like to cover as much ground as he can. Eizenstat, who will be onstage with Bloomberg, said he is looking forward to people hearing Bloomberg in this manner.
“I go to seders with him every year. He has very strong Jewish values, a strong Jewish identity,” Eizenstat said. “He is a remarkable combination of business, public service, philanthropy, family and Judaism.”
The event is free and open to the public.