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Friday, May 16, 2008

Beckerman honored for fighting prejudice





By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
WOODBRIDGE
— It began with bags of bagels discarded on a gymnasium floor, and escalated to 10 boys in a Nazi salute chanting “Jew” from the stands at a Florida high school.
New Haven native and Starter sportswear founder David Beckerman, show above, second from left, now of Guilford and Florida, was coaching the basketball game and was incensed.
He recalled growing up Jewish in New Haven’s old Oak Street neighborhood, being “blamed for things that may have happened 1,000 years ago.”
“My mom used to say, let it go. That was the ’50s.”
Now it was 2007. “You have to speak out,” he said.
Beckerman was honored Thursday with the Greater New Haven Anti-Defamation League’s Torch of Liberty Award for his efforts to eradicate prejudice in both Connecticut and Florida.
The presentation was made in front of a packed audience at Congregation B’nai Jacob. The award dinner raised a record-breaking $350,000.
In response to the anti-Semitic taunts at the game, Beckerman paid for both Florida schools to participate in a six-week tolerance building program called A World of Difference. He has continued his support for tolerance education here in Connecticut, establishing the Beckerman Family Endowment Fund through the state ADL.
The fund will support educational programs that confront anti-Semitism and fight prejudice in Connecticut, and Beckerman will match each donation to the fund up to $100,000.
“David Beckerman never stands idle and allows something to happen. His adult life has been dedicated to making a difference and searching for equal opportunity for all,” said event co-chairman Mark Sklarz.
Beckerman is founder and chairman of the board of Acorn Group, a corporate real estate management and development company. He is still coaching basketball in Florida, a passion that began at the Jewish Community Center and continued at James Hillhouse High School. He later coached both the JCC and Hamden Hall Country Day School teams.
Over the years, Beckerman has supported numerous community initiatives, including the New Haven Hospital-Beckerman Retail Complex, the Beckerman Family Athletic Center at Hamden Hall Country Day School, and the David A. Beckerman Recreational Center at the University of New Haven.
He also helped to establish the Jewish Community Center Beckerman Lender Building, and within that complex, the JCC Camp/Beckerman Family Park and the David and Ruthann Beckerman Gymnasium.
“The Lord has been incredibly good to me. It’s absolutely an edict that we pay it back,” Beckerman said.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

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