2006-03-03 / Columnists

Chatting with Chapey

Dr. Geraldine ChapeyDr. Geraldine Chapey

by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader

Emerald Isle Immigration Center Awards

As a member of the Executive Board of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center (EIIC) I was pleased to attend the 13th Annual Robert Briscoe Awards on Monday, January 30, 2006 at the 21 Club in Manhattan. The Robert Briscoe Awards are given in honor of the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin – Robert Briscoe. The awards are given to Jewish individuals who have worked with the Irish community.

This year the award was given to our Congressman, Anthony Weiner who represents the 9th District of New York located in Brooklyn and Queens and to Stuart Gra Bois – the Executive Director of the New York District Council of Carpenters Benefit Fund.

The Executive Board of the EIIC is chaired by Brian O’Dwyer, Esq. Brian is an outstanding attorney. He is the champion of Civil Rights for the Irish and for our entire community. Brian is astute, capable, charismatic and persuasive. He is a strong advocate for working people in New York City and New York State. He is advancing the cause of civil and human rights. He continues and enhances his family tradition of service. I am proud to serve on the Executive Board of the EIIC with Brian as our chairperson and leader.

Each year Robert Briscoe’s son Benjamin Briscoe comes to the EIIC ceremony to present the awards personally. He has followed in his father’s footsteps in serving in elected office in Ireland. He represents the finest tradition of the Irish and the Jewish. He is very pleased to see these two groups come together to continue the work for peace and justice that his father so successfully championed.

Robert Briscoe himself was born in 1894 and was the son of a Lithuanian immigrant. He was raised in the strict orthodox Jewish tradition. In 1914 he was sent to the U. S. by his father in order to avoid his conscription into the crown forces in World War I. Robert Briscoe, even as a young man, was concerned with human rights and improving the human condition. When he came back to Ireland after the Easter rising of 1916 he immediately worked with other young revolutionaries in Fianna Eireann. During the war he worked with Michael Collins to secure arms for the IRA. After the war he worked with other like-minded youth to found the Fianna Fail party. He was first elected to parliament in 1929. He was active with the World Zionist Organization working to promote international support for the settlement of Jews in Palestine. He worked hard traveling through the Middle East to publicize the value of Irish products abroad. He wrote his autobiography with the assistance of Alden Hatch and entitled it “For the Life of Me”. Robert Briscoe stated in his life history that “All the time I was growing up I was being steeped in the dark, storm – wracked, blight – shot history of my country, of Erie”. Everyone mourned the passing of Robert Briscoe in 1969. We are pleased that his son is continuing the work of his father. It is also important to the EIIC that Benjamin Briscoe joins us each year at the award ceremony. (The material about Robert Briscoe was obtained from the EIIC program).

The Robert Briscoe Award was previously given to Marci Gilbert, Sol Chaiken and Neil Abramson in 1994; to Dr. Gary Zucker, Jay Mazur and Ed Koch in 1995; to Ted Jacobsen and Howard Teich in 1996; to Moe Beller, Alan Hevesi and Donald Rubin in 1997; to Bruce Frankel, Benjamin Gilman and Barry Lipton in 1998; to Frank Lautenberg, Philip Milstein and Claire Schulman in 1999; to Peter Glazier, Eliot Spitzer and Randi Weingarten in 2000; to Congresswoman Nita Lowey, and Jeffery Weisenfeld in 2002; to Ruth Abram and Barrie L. Abrams in 2002; to Rabbi Joseph Potasnek and Robert King in 2003; to Rabbi Dr. Alvin Kass, Senator Charles E. Schumer and Stuart Appelbaum in 2004 and to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Howard Milstein in 2005.

Congressman Anthony Weiner, one of this years award recipients, is well known to our community. He is serving as our Congressman. He was born in Brooklyn and moved to Queens. According to his bio “His work in Washington shows his commitment to his hometown. He has brought millions of dollars home to New York City: Funds to restore our city’s parks and beaches; funds to improve the collection of DNA to solve crimes against women; funds for programs for developmentally disabled; funds to improve pedestrian safety; funds to combat pests that have ravaged our trees; funds for additional police officers; funds to bring ferry transportation to more New Yorkers and even funds to clean graffiti.”

Anthony Weiner’s name became a household word in New York City during his aggressive campaign for the Mayor of New York City. Anthony is proud of the newspapers description of him during the Mayoral race. In his bio he quotes the New York Post and New York Newsday. The Post stated that “Weiner represents a new persona in the Democratic party”. Newsday credits Weiner with setting “a new political paradigm”.

I am sure that we will be hearing much more from our Congressman.

Stuart R. Gra Bois was the other recipient of the EIIC award. Stuart is the Executive Director of the New York District Council of Carpenters Benefit Fund. He is a graduate of St. John’s University holding a BA in political science. He holds a Juris Doctorate from the Washington College of Law of the American University. Stuart has been admitted to the New York State Bar, both the state and federal courts in New York and to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He has had an illustrious career serving as the attorney-in-charge of the New York County Supreme Court Bureau (Federal Trial Bureau), as a senior trial attorney for the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice and as the Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and was on the prosecutorial staff under the former United States Attorney Rudolph Giuliani.

Stuart Gra Bois now coordinates all of the benefits for Union carpenters in New York City. Stuart supervises the expenditure of these funds. (The facts about him were provided by the EIIC program).

I am very proud to be part of the EIIC which helps new immigrants of all nationalities.

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