Mar 9, 2016
THE EVENT: 600+ Show “This is what a community looks like!” with Henry Winkler
For a fourth year, our Jewish community came together in all its vibrant diversity with one purpose at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County’s THE EVENT: to celebrate all the good we do together and get inspired to do even more for those who depend on us. From our synagogues, our Federation partner agencies and schools; from longtime leaders and donors to newcomers; and from multiple generations - a crowd of more than 600 filled the rooms at B’nai Torah Congregation with ruach on February 23.
Once again they heard compelling stories from people whose lives they have been changed through their assistance. And this year they heard Henry Winkler, iconic actor, producer and children’s book author best known for his unforgettable, award-winning role of The Fonz on Happy Days tell his own remarkable story.
THE EVENT festivities kicked off with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, food stations and a showcase of the Jewish community’s wealth of resources – amid the powerful buzz of cross-community connections old and new.
The energy kept building as the program began with the breathtaking surprise of the young, world-renowned spoken word artist, Andrew Lustig, performing “I Am a Jew” live onstage.
“Tonight, we come together to show our collective power to make a profound impact through our Jewish Federation,” welcomed Chuck Lichtman, who co-chaired the evening with his wife, Gayle, and with Nancy and Greg Gefen. “Just look around and you’ll see all the good in our community – because you have responded to our call to take responsibility for our Jewish family in need – to feed, protect, teach, inspire, save and comfort… to impact today and imagine tomorrow.”
Through video and in-person presentations from recipients who have been helped through their efforts, the audience learned the poignant, powerful and inspiring real stories of individuals and families whose lives have been changed by the array of people and organizations in this Jewish community working and giving together. They met Greg Gefen’s brother, who lives a quality, independent life near his family at a JARC group home; and Wendy, a mother whose “greatest gifts” are her two daughters, whom she adopted through JAFCO after they removed from their birth families for neglect. They heard from Bar, whose work with JAFI helped some of the 8,000 French Jews who made aliyah to “a new life in Israel,” and from the parents of Carson, whose learning challenges are met with care and friendship at Katz Hillel Day School’s Etgar Program.
Local Holocaust survivor Norman Frajman received a standing ovation after sharing his journey from concentration camps to consummate advocacy for survivors and Holocaust education, including the March of the Living. “You are all living proof that the light of Judaism is burning bright – and that we are all part of a strong Jewish community united in the purpose of helping others,” Frajman said. “We must do everything in our power to comfort and extend the lives of our survivors and inspire future generations to ‘never forget.’ Our future depends on it.”
“This is what a community looks like,” said Matthew C. Levin, Federation President & CEO, in his passionate remarks. Levin called out the community’s remarkable past and achievements of the present, while calling on everyone present to “help us meet the challenges ahead of us, those that we anticipate and others we do not expect…. The future of our amazing Jewish community is being built here tonight, and there is no doubt that, together, we are building a better future for so many who need us. And for all, this is a community where people looking for a wonderful Jewish life full of meaning are finding it and building it.” He went on to urge everyone to engage even further during Federation’s “60 Days of Impact.”
To tears as well as laughter, Henry Winkler shared the story behind his many successes, which include two consecutive Golden Globe Awards, and three Emmy nominations and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Born to parents who had escaped Nazi Germany in 1939, he was told continually from an early age that he was “stupid, lazy and “not up to [his] potential.” He didn’t read books, couldn’t write papers and often coped as the “class clown.” Yet he managed to graduate from Emerson College and Yale University School of Drama before finally being diagnosed with dyslexia at age 31. And he’s gone on to co-write Hank Zipzer series of children’s books about a boy with dyslexia, and to high level advocacy for those who experience it.
A group of Federation’s younger major donors, Emerging Jewish Philanthropists (EJP), headed to a side room for a spirited “after party” immediately following THE EVENT. They enjoyed dessert, coffee, an intimate discussion with Winkler and, as always, each other’s company.
THE EVENT was generously sponsored by Berger Singerman, Brown’s Interior Design, CBIZ MHM, HJ SIMS, Hotwire Communications, Butcher Block Grill/ Mozart Café, and Suffolk Construction. The Boca Raton Observer was Exclusive Magazine Sponsor. The Sun Sentinel is Federation’s Exclusive Newspaper Sponsor.