City’s “Sticky.” Is Iran?

“Stickiness”—in New Haven, and abroad—was the theme at Kroon Hall Tuesday night.

That word was invoked in two separate contexts at the Yeshiva of New Haven’s 38th annual gathering, held at the environmentally designed Yale building on Prospect Street.

Ali Alfoneh invoked it as the keynote speaker at the Yeshiva of New Haven’s 38th annual gathering, held at Yale’s Kroon Hall.

The gathering was a fundraiser to support the work of the Jewish organization, an anchor of the Edgewood community. Each year the event has honored a member of the community with the “Civic Achievement Award.” This year’s recipient was Yale-New Haven Hospital President Richard D’Aquila (at right in photo). Former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano (a former award recipient) praised D’Aquila at the dinner for invigorating a sense of “stickiness” between the hospital and the local community. D’Aquila called the award an acknowledgement of “a larger team effort.” Riffing on DeStefano’s “stickiness” motif, he called it an honor to be the glue between a hospital and its community of patients.

Alfoneh began his keynote address by stating that the same “stickiness” rewarded at Tuesday’s event is a lot more difficult to find in his home country of Iran.

Alfoneh left Iran at the age of 15, moving to Denmark. He has remained involved in the politics of his home country. He is currently a senior fellow at a right-leaning think tank called Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Alfoneh said he does not trust the Obama administration’s handling of foreign policy with Iran. The two countries are engaged in negotiations on a deal aimed at containing Iran’s nuclear weapons development in return for an easing of economic sanctions on the country.

The U.S. government is discussing relations with only a small segment of Iran’s political elite, Alfoneh said. Influential political entities like the Revolutionary Guards, a branch of Iran’s Armed Forces that has gained wealth and status beyond the military, are left out of the discussions, he said.

“Our current president is the most sophisticated we have seen since 1979,” Alfoneh said. “I do know that the bar is rather low, but still.”

The two honored guests praised the mission of Yeshiva of New Haven, whose related real-estate arms have renovated dilapidated historic homes and stabilized the Edgewood neighborhood.

DeStefano noted that Yale-New Haven is now the fifth-largest hospital in the country.

“It’s easy when you scale up on that scale to lose “stickiness” and connectedness,” DeStefano said, explaining that D’Aquila had embodied the opposite.

The pair had met when D’Aquila was building homes with the organization Habitat for Humanity. In his remarks, D’Aquila joked that he worked on two houses, but got injured working on only one of them.

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