Russell Simmons’ Foundation for Ethnic Understanding cheers its contributors, despite questions of what has been done
By Helaina Hovitz
On Monday, March 18, over 250 people braved the snow and sleet and traveled to Russell Simmons’ penthouse apartment at 114 Liberty Street. He has owned the apartment, directly across the street from the World Trade Center Site, for over fifteen years. Simmons is chairman of the Foundation For Ethnic Understanding, an organization that aims to strengthen “Muslim Jewish Relations, Black Jewish Relations and Latino-Jewish Relations.” The man of the house was hosting a ceremony honoring its “young leaders.” The apartment was packed shoulder to shoulder with socialites, models, and musicians like singer Jay-Sean and rapper Q-Tip — Anderson Cooper and Chelsea Clinton were no-shows.
The five honorees were listed in the event’s program with their bios, all of which include their professional achievements, none of which included their work with the foundation, mostly likely because reps confirmed that none of them has actually done anything besides donate money. However, for the past five years, the FFEU has hosted what they call a “Twinnings” week, offering learning/networking events geared at “building communication, reconciliation and cooperation between Muslims and Jews.” They have also fed the hungry and homeless as part of the week’s programming. On average, over 100 events take place in 20 countries during Twinnings week.
Among the honorees were billionaire entrepreneur Ben Bronman and high-profile lawyer Sal Strazzullo, who was being honored for his work with Muslim and Jewish community leaders (he represented boxer Sadam Ali, when he fought to compete in the Olympics). When asked what the foundation has managed to accomplish so far, Strazzullo, answered, “Well, it’s young. FFEU has been in a state of turmoil, first with 9/11, then with Obama being elected…” Strazzullo is best known for representing high-profile violence cases for chef David Burke, nightclub owner Adam Hock, and strippers Sophia Kandelaki (Scores) and Alexia Moore (Big Daddy Lou’s Hot Lap Dance Club).
Similarly, when asked what initiatives the foundation has successfully taken, honoree Paramdeep Singh answered, “They’re so young, it’s really a seed.”
The FFEU was founded in 1989.
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