AFIPO History: How it All Started

Bruce Nadler recalls when Zubin Mehta, Fredric R. Mann, and Morton S. Ackerman launched the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

 

Fredric Mann with Zubin Mehta

In 1981, months before his appointment to be the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s Music Director for Life, Maestro Zubin Mehta sought help to raise funds for the orchestra.

He decided to start his search with the American donor whose name graced the orchestra’s home in Tel Aviv.

Decades before he helped the IPO build an auditorium in Israel, and still in his twenties, Fredric R. Mann had built his own fortune manufacturing corrugated boxes. He had fallen in love with the violin as a child, then fallen off his bicycle and become unable to play. He kept his love of classical music, however, and by the mid-1930s was among the American philanthropists Bronislaw Huberman contacted for assistance to help Jewish musicians escape Nazi Germany, move to Palestine, and start what became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Another was Albert Einstein, who brought international attention to the cause with a fundraising event at the Waldorf-Astoria. Mann’s support would continue, and include the leadership gift for the Fredric R. Mann Auditorium, which opened in 1957. (In 2013, after a massive renovation, the auditorium was renamed Charles Bronfman Hall, after the Canadian-American businessman and philanthropist.)

In 1948, in his hometown of Philadelphia, Mann had revitalized the Robin Hood Dell outdoor performance space and in 1960, arranged for it to provide the U.S. conducting debut for Zubin Mehta.

 

 

Fredric Mann Conducting

 

Bruce Nadler

After the Maestro enlisted his help, Mann immediately turned to his close friend Mort Ackerman. Mann, the United States ambassador to Barbados in the 1960s, was M.S. Ackerman & Co.’s oldest client. Ackerman turned to Bruce Nadler, a young rising star in his accounting firm. Nadler had joined M.S. Ackerman & Co. “in 1977 as a kid out of school” and never worked for another accounting firm. He was assigned to Mann’s Mannkraft Corporation account and met its owner numerous times.

“So,” Nadler recalled recently from his office in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, “Ambassador Mann comes in to see Morty Ackerman in 1981 and says, ‘Listen, I was talking to Zubin and he says we have to do something for his orchestra. He was told there was an American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic organization somewhere in the U.S. and he wanted to reactivate it.'”

Ackerman and Nadler needed to do some sleuthing, which meant Nadler did the legwork.

“It was not easy at the beginning,” he said. “We heard from Zubin and Fred that the organization existed, but where was it? It took some researching, but eventually we found it.”

There was $6,251.34 in a dormant American Friends bank account in Washington D.C.

“We notified them on official letterhead who we were so they didn’t think we were trying to steal the money,” Nadler said. “Fred Mann probably spoke to them to say who we were. That was really it.

“We opened a new account in New York and reactivated American Friends. Fred was the chairman of it, Norman Bernstein was the president, and Morty Ackerman, my boss at the time then my partner, was the treasurer,” Nadler said.

In those days, deposited checks were returned to bank customers and the check sent to Fredric Mann, from the dormant AFIPO to the resurgent AFIPO, came back into the office.

“I put that check in the permanent file in our office of AFIPO,” Nadler said. “To me it was cool … the beginning of something. Years later when Morty came in and said, ‘It’s Zubin’s 60th birthday, we need to do something for him: Figure out something,’ Right away I knew I had that original cancelled check. I thought of the motto of my kids’ public school on Long Island: “From Little Acorns, Big Trees Grow.”

He retrieved the check and made copies for two framed plaques and “inclusion in Zubin’s 60th birthday journal that was given to him.” One plaque was presented to Zubin Mehta at his birthday ceremony and the other hangs in the AFIPO offices in Manhattan.

Through the ensuing decades, Nadler continued to provide pro bono services to the AFIPO.

AFIPO CEO Naomi Grabel commented, “People like Bruce, who remain committed to the AFIPO for such a long time, are the bedrock of an organization. The connection between our history and our present is fundamental to who we are. And the role played by volunteers like Bruce is inestimable.”

This year he is stepping down from official duties, but not stepping away.

“I still have a close relationship,” he said. “I’ve been a supporter of theirs personally, professionally – all these years and I always will be. The AFIPO has a fond place in my heart. It is one of those things where you saw it go from nothing to become something that people love. From that $6,251.34 check, American Friends has grown meaningfully and has given tremendous support, financially as well as in other ways over the past 30-plus years. “

It has filled a crucial need in the growth and sustenance of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra,” he said.

Thankfully, the same can be said of Bruce Nadler.