“M azel tov, " Monsignor Royale Vadakin of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said in his best Yiddish to Dr. Neil C. Sandberg upon his retirement after 40 years with the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, a national human rights organization. For the last 28 years, Sandberg served as Western regional director.
His retirement elicited all forms of congratulations and best wishes Monday night at a cocktail reception at the Beverly Hills Hotel preceding the organization’s annual dinner meeting where Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt spoke. Robert M. Jones, executive director of the Southern California Region National Conference of Christians and Jews, received the Dr. Max W. Bay Memorial Award.
The list of leaders attending from religious groups and race relations organizations was a testimony to Sandberg’s skill as a bridge builder between communities, as John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League, put it.
They included Bishop Oliver Garver of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles; Venerable Dr. H. Ratanasara, president of the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California; Dr. Fred Register, president of the Interreligious Council of Southern California; John Saito, executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League, and Rev. Spencer Gibbs, director of the Urban and Black Ministry of the United Presbyterian Church.
Also attending were Los Angeles City Council members Joy Picus, Nate Holden, Michael Woo and Zev Yaroslavsky; former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Dr. Julian Nava; Ran Ronen, consul general of Israel; Dr. Franz Cede, consul general of Austria, and Dr. Klaus Aurisch, deputy consul general of the Federal Republic of Germany.
“Neil is, simply put, Mr. Human Relations of Los Angeles,” suggested attorney Bruce Ramer. Sandberg, it turns out, isn’t going too far when he retires. He is simply moving his office down the hall as director of the AJC’s newly established Pacific Rim Institute. Sandberg said he’d be doing pretty much the same things he always did, only in another part of the world--building bridges.