April 18, 2024
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Emunah Puts a New Spin on Its Gala Dinner

On Saturday evening, December 2, over 600 guests gathered for the annual Emunah gala that took place at Pier 60, Chelsea Piers. Attendees and honorees were dressed in their finest, with perfectly coiffed hair, impeccable shoes and finely tailored clothing, all in support of the charitable work that Emunah does for thousands of Jewish children and families in Israel. Guests were immediately wowed upon entering, as a unique hologram of the Emunah logo appeared to be floating mid-air, in the doorframe, looking almost like it was made out of water, but in actuality was light.

There was a continued sense of excitement at the sprawling appetizer buffet catered by Mark David. Each table set for guests displayed an oversized spinning disc, a “Lazy Susan,” so that attendees did not need to clamor for food or require waiter service for the main meal, but had a vast presentation of plated delicacies within arm’s reach.

This year, Emunah was privileged to honor individuals who wholeheartedly devote themselves to the creation of a better and safer future in Israel. Esther and Paul Lerer, the guests of honor, are lifelong advocates of those less fortunate and are worthy recipients of this esteemed award. This year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award was Melanie Oelbaum, who has made lifelong outstanding contributions to Emunah’s work. Michelle Salig was the deserving recipient of the Keter Shem Tov Award for her extraordinary work on behalf of Emunah of America’s families. An exemplary role model, Shira Ben-David was the recipient of this year’s Young Leadership Award and serves as an inspiration to youth worldwide.

In addition to seeing inspiring videos of the honorees, each year Emunah brings in a success story from one of their homes. This year, the keynote speaker was Manny Maytaveyev, a young man who grew up in Afula, one of Emunah’s children’s homes. Prior to his years at Emunah, he described himself as being a troubled child, always mischievous and having run-ins with the law. But through the help of the supportive and loving staff at Afula, he managed to pull his life together. After years of work, therapy and endless love, Manny became an actor, landing a role in a television show in Israel. But it wasn’t enough, and he always felt the need to give back to Afula, so he became the av bayit, the head of the home, in Afula for the past six years. He is also married and has a child, and they joined him on his trip to New York and stood beside him, showing their support and admiration during his speech. Manny’s triumph gives hope to the thousands of other children in Emunah’s care. He gives them a face, a voice, a reason to move on.

Another innovation to the dinner this year was the after-party. Kol Hanearim, a leadership program founded by Ezra Gontownik and Michael Riedler, aimed at getting high school and college-aged kids to come to Israel and volunteer at one of Emunah’s group homes or other venues, co-hosted this event with Emunah. Over 400 people attended, from teens through adults, and everyone enjoyed a full bar, some light food, a live DJ and the band Zusha. Many have said it was the social event of the year, and Emunah is thrilled to see so many young people invested in this meaningful cause.

A special thank you goes to the incredible chairs—Malkah Cohen, Charlotte Dachs, Careena Parker, Rivki Rosenwald and Mindy Stein—for all their creative input.

For more information, or to see how you can get involved in Emunah, please visit their website at www.emunah.org.

 

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