Award-winning journalist Katie Couric was the keynote speaker at the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford luncheon in West Hartford on Friday.
By Ronni Newton
The theme of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford “Voices” luncheon on Friday was “Empowering Women to Use their Collective Voice to Make a Difference,” and award-winning journalist Katie Couric, who spoke for about 45 minutes, clearly inspired the 450 who attended to follow that advice.
Couric’s keynote address, which was moderated by author and TV host Alison Lebovitz, drew a standing ovation.
The current anchor for Yahoo News, who is best known as the former host of NBC’s Today Show and anchor of CBS Evening News, asked that her comments during the luncheon be “off the record,” so that she could chat freely with the group. And she did just that, with many attendees remarking that she seemed just as genuinely nice, friendly, and perky as her TV persona had led them to believe.
Couric happily posed with anyone who wanted their picture taken, and spoke about her family and her personal life. She spoke about the tragedy of the death of her first husband, Jay Monahan, from colon cancer and how 18 years later she finally married again. She spoke about the tragic death from pancreatic cancer of her sister Emily, a rising star on the Virginia political scene. She talked about her daughters Ellie and Carrie, both now in California. She spoke about her parents, and how her father insisted that she and her siblings each bring a new word to the dinner table every night, something that Couric credits as inspiring her love of language.
The audience appreciated Couric’s frankness and honesty. She said that everyone already knows her, and if the crowd didn’t already agree, they left the luncheon feeling like that was certainly true.
Couric also revealed a little-known fact that resonated well with the crowd. Although she was raised Presbyterian, her mother was Jewish. She isn’t well-versed in the religious observances, but was thrilled to shake the lulav on stage to celebrate Sukkot along with Rabbi Debra Cantor and West Hartford Deputy Mayor Shari Cantor.
The luncheon, which was co-chaired by Shari Cantor, Dana Keller, Jodi Schwartz, and Leslie Weinstein, was a fundraiser for the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. Philanthropy Chair Carolyn Gitlin, a West Hartford resident, addressed a VIP reception that preceeded the luncheon as well as the larger group, highlighting the causes that will be helped through the proceeds from the fundraising efforts.
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