It is an "obscenity" that the Iranian is speaking there, said Rabbi Gerald Skolnik of Forest Hills Jewish Center in Queens, to which Lerner also gave. "To have a Holocaust-denying, nuclear-aspiring hatemonger speaking in a hall that bears his name in the interest of 'free speech,' it's just the wrong person in the wrong place."
Lerner, who died in 2002 at 69, was born in Brooklyn to Russian immigrants. He was a 1955 Columbia graduate and a Marine pilot. He became chairman of MBNA Corp. and owned the Cleveland Browns football team. Lerner donated a fortune to the Cleveland Clinic and created a fund to help families of first responders killed on 9/11. He also gave generously to the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, which assists aging unsung heroes from World War II who helped save Jews during the Holocaust and educates teachers about the genocide.