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Foundation News & Blog
Tony Kushner Puffin/Nation 2011 Creative Citizen Award Winner donates $100,000 prize
Posted in News

"American playwright Tony Kushner has donated $100,000 in prize money to the university whose board originally blocked a decision to award him an honorary degree earlier this year.

In May, John Jay College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY), was initially prevented from honouring Kushner following criticism from one of the university's trustees, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, over what he perceived as the playwright's anti-Israel stance. Four days later, following a media firestorm, the decision was rescinded.

However, accepting a Creative Citizenship award at a ceremony in New York on Monday night, the playwright, best known for his epic Angels in America, said he would nonetheless be donating the $100,000 prize money to CUNY.

The award, which is jointly presented by The Nation Institute and Puffin Foundation, officially marks Kushner's 'lifetime of artistic work and activism that has given voice to the marginalised and explored the most challenging issues of the past 50 years'.

Kushner's work has always placed issues of social justice at its centre. Angels in America, arguably his masterpiece, tackled the conservative backlash against Aids, while other plays have looked at the relationship between Afghanistan and the west (Homebody/Kabul) and the rise of capitalism online casino (Hydriotaphia, or the Death of Dr Browne).

Though the CUNY incident is not directly mentioned, Kushner's subsequent conduct has been cited as a motivating factor behind the award.

Last month, Andy Breslau, president of the Nation Institute, said: 'Tony's refusal to submit to the mischaracterisation of his statements on Israel at a moment of great public controversy struck the jury as not only commendable, but also in keeping with his career-long commitment to the public responsibilities of the artist.' "

-via The Guardian, full article here.


2011 Honoree Tony Kushner
Posted in News

The Puffin Foundation is pleased to announce the winner of the 2011 Puffin Nation Award for Creative Citizenship, Tony Kushner.


UPDATE:  Nation Institute

Tony Kushner Makes the News

Posted by Jayati Vora, December 7, 2011 to the Nation Institute Blog

Photo: John Munson

Neal Rosenstein (left), of the Puffin Foundation, presents the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship to Tony Kushner (right) at The Nation Institute's annual dinner gala, December 5, 2011

It's big news when Tony Kushner wins a large cash award from the Puffin Foundation. It's even bigger when the acclaimed Jewish playwright is embroiled in a scandal, as he was this past May when the CUNY board blocked him from receiving an honorary degree for his allegedly anti-Israel beliefs. And it gets more interesting when Kushner, in his acceptance speech on Monday night, states that he plans to donate the money to a scholarship for the students at the university's John Jay College campus and jokes that he'll name it after the CUNY board member who denounced him. (The scholarship part is real; the naming part undoubtedly not.)

The award, called the Puffin / Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, which is jointly offered by The Nation Institute and the Puffin Foundation, is accompanied by a $100,000 prize. It is given each year at the Institute's dinner gala, which took place this year at the Metropolitan Pavilion on December 5. The event is closed to the press, but Kushner's humorous remarks must have been too good to resist, for quotes leaked out into the New York Observer the following day. The Observer scribe wrote that Kushner said

he felt a little bit guilty since anytime he heard of anyone winning an award, he always felt a twinge of jealousy. Jokingly, Mr. Kushner gave an example of being aggrieved that Israeli scientist Dan Shechtman won the Nobel Prize this year for the discovery of quasicrystals. "I don't even understand what quasicrystals are," Mr. Kushner said. "But I still thought, 'Aww, why didn't I win?'"

The news got picked up in the Guardian (UK), and was reposted on an L Magazine blog.

The announcement last month also made the news. The New York Times' Art Beat blog led the way on November 28, while theater websites such as Theater Mania followed suit. The Jewish Daily Forward ran a round-up post on its Arty Semite blog. The Jewish Journal, in its Hollywood Jew blog, filed a longer piece quoting from their own earlier coverage of the CUNY fracas as well as from the Nation Institute press release, in which Kushner said, in his inimitably humorous way:

To be a good citizen, much less a creative one, is a tall order, and while I hope I can say I've never taken the blessings of citizenship (however abridged these remain, despite recent advances, for the entire LGBT community) for granted, I feel certain that I've achieved at best a rudimentary level of sufficiency regarding the obligations that come with the franchise. I can only add that since this will make me feel terrible every time I fail to be a creative citizen, it'll be a goad to step up my game — since citizenship, like playwriting or the violin, requires practice, practice, practice.  I'm so grateful to The Institute and the Puffin Foundation for their wayward taste and misguided judgment, and I plan to keep blushing for several years to come.

The Journal blog post was also picked up by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz online. The Forward ran a profile of Kushner in their December 6, 2011 issue — written prior to the award ceremony on Monday night — which detailed his upbringing:

Kushner's grandfather was a glazier who was locked out for attempting to organize, which meant that his mother grew up in "terrible poverty in the Bronx" and Kushner himself grew up with an understanding of how labor, society and the production of goods and wealth should relate. Over the past two decades, though, he notes ruefully, those assumptions have been dismantled as the conversation about the right to organized labor has disappeared and the "right to work" state has become the unquestioned norm. "It seems there’s no such thing," he remarked, "as the category of economic justice."

Watch this space for the unedited speech that Kushner gave.


The Huffington Post featured Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin's comments from the annual gala dinner, where she "held up the protests over Gov. Scott Walker's anti-collective bargaining law that started in Wisconsin in February, as well as the Occupy protests around the nation, as indicators of the power of progressivism." The post quoted her as saying, "We have learned something important in recent months. Something none of us should ever forget. The truth is, no amount of corporate money or right-wing lies can defeat a progressive movement that is energized and mobilized." If elected to the Wisconsin Senate, Baldwin would be the first openly gay senator in the United States.



Dan Levitan, (646) 200-5315

Tony Kushner Announced as Winner of the 2011 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship

November 28, 2011 (New York, NY): The Nation Institute announced today that playwright, screenwriter, and activist Tony Kushner will receive the annual $100,000 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. This prestigious award will be presented to Kushner on Monday, December 5, 2011 at The Nation Institute’s Annual Dinner Gala in New York City.

The Puffin Foundation and The Nation Institute co-sponsor this annual award, given to an individual who has challenged the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative, and socially responsible work of significance. Recipients are drawn from a broad range of occupations and pursuits, including academia, journalism, public health, literature, art, the environmental sciences, labor, and the humanities. The prize is intended to encourage the recipients to continue their work, and to inspire others to challenge the prevailing orthodoxies they face in their careers.

Kushner is receiving the award for a lifetime of artistic work and activism that has given voice to the marginalized and explored the most challenging issues of the past fifty years. He has tackled everything from AIDS and the conservative backlash (Angels in America), and the civil rights movement in the South (Caroline, or Change), to Afghanistan and the West (Homebody / Kabul), and the rise of capitalism (Hydriotaphia, or the Death of Dr. Browne). As John Lahr wrote in the New Yorker
, “He gives voice to characters who have been rendered powerless by the forces of circumstances — a drag queen dying of AIDS, an uneducated Southern maid, contemporary Afghans — and his attempt to see all sides of their predicament has a sly subversiveness. He forces the audience to identify with the marginalized — a humanizing act of the imagination.”

From his award-winning plays to his political writing, Kushner has faith in the power of an engaged citizenry to transform society. As he wrote in an inspiring 2004 essay, “
I do not believe the wicked always win. . . . . Not any single one of us has to or possibly can save the world, but . . . with all of us working where we see work to be done, the world will change.”

Kushner is currently on location on the set of his latest project, Lincoln, a film adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin's best-selling biography, Team of Rivals, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and directed by Steven Spielberg, to be released in 2012.

Tony Kushner said, “I was surprised
shocked, even that I’ve been chosen to be the recipient of this year’s Puffin/Nation Prize.  As to my fitness as recipient of an honor that’s gone previously to some of my heroes, I can only say that I’m aghast at The Nation Institute and Puffin Foundation’s decision, and can easily name many others more deserving; and I’m appalled at how I’m pleased that the committee didn’t pick one of them.  Like most progressive Americans, I depend on The Nation magazine for serious, scrupulous, courageous reportage and analysis; I’m very proud to have been published in its pages and proud of my association with The Nation Institute.”

In May 2011, the trustees of the City University of New York (CUNY) blocked Kushner from receiving an honorary degree from one of their campuses, John Jay College, after a member of their board objected to – and mischaracterized – Kushner’s views on Israel. Their decision was met by public outrage, with the New York Times editorializing that CUNY “should have embraced the artist and tossed the board member out.” One month later they reversed their decision, and in his graceful acceptance speech Kushner said, “there stands a shining community of people, of spirits of whom I’m proud to be able to call myself kindred, who believe in the necessity of honest exchanges of ideas and opinions, who understand that life is a struggle to synthesize, to find a balance between responsibility and freedom, strategy and truth, survival and ethical humanity.”

Perry Rosenstein, President of the Puffin Foundation, Ltd., the co-sponsor of the Creative Citizenship award, said "Tony Kushner once wrote ‘Our despair is a lie we are telling ourselves.’ Whether it is in his epochal work for the stage, his screenwriting, or his activism, Tony manages to balance realism, rigor, and hope. He has weathered distortions of his thinking with grace and determination. His consistent vision of a just, more thoughtful, less fearful world isn't rooted in an easy sentimentality, but in an understanding that true justice will only be achieved through patience and hard work. For his inspiring contributions to our culture and the world of ideas, we are proud and thrilled to honor him with the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship."

Andrew Breslau, President of The Nation Institute, the co-sponsor of the prize, said, “Tony Kushner’s intellectual force and bravery has shaped our times. Whether it’s on the stage or in the broader world of ideas, Tony’s commitment to intellectual honesty, moral reflection, and the responsibilities of citizenship is an inspiration to us all.”

Kushner added, “To be a good citizen, much less a creative one, is a tall order, and while I hope I can say I’ve never taken the blessings of citizenship (however abridged these remain, despite recent advances, for the entire LGBT community) for granted, I feel certain that I’ve achieved at best a rudimentary level of sufficiency regarding the obligations that come with the franchise. I can only add that since this will make me feel terrible every time I fail to be a creative citizen, it’ll be a goad to step up my game
since citizenship, like playwriting or the violin, requires practice, practice, practice.  I’m so grateful to The Institute and the Puffin Foundation for their wayward taste and misguided judgment, and I plan to keep blushing for several years to come.” 

Tony Kushner's plays include: A Bright Room Called Day; Angels in America, Parts One and Two; Slavs!; Homebody/Kabul; Caroline, or Change, a musical with composer Jeanine Tesori; and The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide To Capitalism And Socialism With A Key To The Scriptures. He wrote the libretto for the opera A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck, also with Tesori. He has adapted and translated Pierre Corneille's The Illusion, S.Y. Ansky's The Dybbuk, Bertolt Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan and Mother Courage and Her Children; and the English-language libretto for the opera Brundibár by Hans Krasa. He wrote the screenplays for Mike Nichols' film of Angels In America, and Steven Spielberg's Munich. His books include Brundibar, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak; The Art of Maurice Sendak, 1980 to the Present; and Wrestling With Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, co-edited with Alisa Solomon.

Kushner is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, two Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, an Olivier Award, an Emmy Award and an Oscar nomination, among other honors. In 2008, he was the first recipient of the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award. He lives in Manhattan with his husband, Mark Harris.

Kushner is the 12th winner of the award. Last year Cecile Richards and Bill McKibben were co-recipients of the prize. Previous winners are environmental activist Van Jones; former Texas State agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower; human rights lawyer Michael Ratner; Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman; educator and author Jonathan Kozol; journalist and author Barbara Ehrenreich; professor and anti-death penalty advocate David Protess; labor activist Dolores Huerta; and civil rights pioneer Robert Parris Moses.

Since its founding in 1983, the Puffin Foundation has sought to open the doors of artistic expression by providing grants to artists and art organizations who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities due to their race, gender, or social philosophy. The puffin, a species whose nesting sites were endangered by encroaching civilization, were encouraged to return to their native habitats through the constructive efforts of a concerned citizenry. The Foundation adopted the name Puffin as a metaphor for how it sees its mission, which is to ensure that the arts continue to grow and enrich our lives.

A nonprofit media center, The Nation Institute was established to extend the reach of progressive ideas and strengthen the independent press. Its dynamic range of programs include a bestselling book publishing imprint, Nation Books; an award-winning Investigative Fund, which supports groundbreaking investigative journalism; the widely read and syndicated website TomDispatch; an internship program at The Nation magazine; and Journalism Fellowships that fund up to 20 high-profile reporters every year. Work produced by The Nation Institute has sparked Congressional hearings, new legislation, FBI investigations, and the resignation of government officials, has changed the debate, and has a regular impact on the most urgent social and political issues of our day.

- 30 -


For more about the award and Tony Kushner you can read the following articles: NY Times and

Peace Pole Ceremony at Puffin Foundation: Event Photos
Posted in News

This ceremony took place Wednesday November 9th at the Puffin Foundation.

We have sought to have our voice for peace heard. A world without war is a universal desire by untold millions of people. We have erected a “Peace Pole” on The Puffin Foundation Ltd. property located at 20 Puffin Way in Teaneck, NJ and in doing so have become a member of the Peace Pole family in the state of New Jersey.

The Peace Pole states in 8 languages “Let Peace prevail on Earth.” There are presently 264 peace sites throughout New Jersey. We are proud to be one of the new sites.

A ceremony was held on November 9, 2011 outside the Foundation offices. In attendance to dedicate the Peace Pole were State Senator Loretta Weinberg, Teaneck Town Council member Barbara Toffler, Judith Arnold Peace Pole official(New Jersey Peace Action and National Peace Action), Jules Orkin Puffin Foundation Peace Fellow, Supt. of schools Barbara Pinsack, Assistant Supt. of schools Vincent McHale, Walter Nygard of Veterans for Peace, executives of the Puffin Foundation Perry Rosenstein, President, Gladys Miller-Rosenstein Executive Director and Neal Rosenstein Vice President. The student band and ensemble group from Thomas Jefferson Middle School led by music teacher Vincent Pittman, provided entertainment. Anyone who wished to make a statement about world peace was invited to address the audience.

The Peace Pole ceremony will become an annual event.

Photos by: Rachel Banai

Gladys Miller-Rosenstein, Executive Director of The Puffin Foundation, Ltd.
Judith Arnold of New Jersey Peace Action and National Peace Action

Jules Orkin, Puffin Peace Fellow

Barbara Pinsack, Superintendent of Teaneck Public Schools
Vincent McHale, Assistant Superintendent of Teaneck Public Schools

Barbara Toffler, Town Council Member

State Senator Loretta Weinberg

Walt Nygard, Vice President of Veterans for Peace Chapter 21

Walt Nygard, Sarah Davol, and Vanessa DiBona

Neal Rosenstein, Vice President of The Puffin Foundation, Ltd.

Thomas Jefferson Middle School Bands
Vincent Pittman, Music Teacher

Letter to the Puffin Foundation from Superintendent Barbara Pinsak
Posted in News

A letter to the Puffin Foundation Ltd., from Barbara Pinsak Superintendent of Schools and Teaneck Board of Education

August 31, 2011:

"Thank you for your generous gift of $6,500 from the Puffin Foundation for computers for the video documentary classes at the middle schools. Thanks to your support of the Teaneck Public Schools, the students enjoy classroom enrichment throughout the year due to your generous donations for the purchase of equipment and funding for after-school programs."

Baltasar Garzón Receives ALBA/ Puffin Award
Posted in News


Perry Rosenstein (above) President of the Puffin Foundation, Ltd. presented the first ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism to Judge Baltasar Garzón of Spain on May 14, 2011.  Judge Garzón is a world-renowned hero to the human rights community, in large part because of his indictment and arrest warrant against Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile. Judge Garzón (below right) is acting as a consultant to the International Criminal Court, carrying on his lifelong work of holding international criminals  accountable.  (Photos by Len Tsou)








2012 ALBA-Puffin International Award for Human Rights Activism
Posted in News

ALBA is now accepting nominations for the

2014 ALBA-Puffin International Award for Human Rights Activism


About the Award:

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives and the Puffin Foundation invite nominations for the ALBA-Puffin International Award for Human Rights Activism.  The Award is granted on an annual basis to individuals or organizations whose work has had an exceptionally positive impact on the advancement and/or defense of human rights.

The Activism Award was established in 2011 to honor the International Brigades and all those who fought against fascism during the Spanish Civil War by connecting that legacy with international activist causes today, in particular the defense of human rights.

The Award will be presented at an official ceremony in New York in the spring of 2014.  A $100,000 cash award will be given to the laureate individual or organization to support his/her ongoing work on the area of Human Rights Activism.


How to Apply:

Interested candidates may send an email quoting in the subject line:  “ALBA-Puffin Award for HR Activism, 2012” to by 30 September 2013.  The application should include the following information:

1.      Name of the individual(s) or organization to be nominated;

2.      Nominee's contact information, website, etc.;

3.      Name of the nominating individual(s) or organization;

4.      Nominator’s contact information, website, etc. ;

5.      Justification for the nomination (300 words max.);


The selection committee consists of a panel with representation from the Puffin Foundation, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives and an Honorary Committee.

More information on the First ALBA-Puffin International Award for Human Rights Activism here

Through Others' Eyes
Posted in News


A delegation of brave young Jewish Israeli and Arab Israeli youngsters finished their three-week stay at Camp Shomira in Liberty, NY. Their stay under the sponsorship of Givat Haviva and supported by the Puffin Foundation ended with a photo exhibition titled Through Others' Eyes at the Puffin Cultural Forum.

The exhibition was a look into each others' homes in Israel where the youngsters learned how similar their family lives were. These brave young teenagers crossed borders and shared each others' diverse but not so different values and learned to listen and respect each other.

The program at Camp Shomira, where they discussed conflict resolution and lived together, was a wonderful awakening for them. They will be using Facebook to help keep in touch once back in Israel and help share their experiences with others.

Exhibit runs August 3-18.

Gallery Hours: 12-4pm Tuesday-Thursday.


Teaneck's Red Oak Tree
Posted in News

Teaneck's Red Oak Tree

The great red oak that has grown for more than 350 years at what is today the intersection of Cedar Lane and Palisade Avenue in Teaneck, NJ will be allowed to die a natural death. Through the efforts of the Puffin Foundation, which provided an undisclosed amount of funding, a semi-circular conservation easement has been established in the area of the tree. The Bergen County Department of Parks will provide maintenance of the tree for the duration of its life.

Senator Loretta Weinberg described Perry Rosenstein and his wife Gladys as "the catalysts who provided the necessary money to establish the easement."

Rosenstein spoke about some of the remarkable events that the great oak has quietly witnessed. "It had been here since the REvolutionary War when George Washington retreated on this route," he said . "It was here during the Civil War when the Emancipation Proclamation gave freedom to African-American slaves and when hundreds of young men and women from Teaneck who went off to fight fascism in WWII."

Tree Rededication May 6, 2011 L-R: Lawyer Martin Sarver, Puffin Foundation Executive Director Gladys Miller-Rosenstein, Puffion Foundation President Perry Rosenstein, Environmentalist Wally Cowan, Teaneck's Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, Senator Loretta Weinberg, and Puffin Foundation Vice President Neal Rosenstein.

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