On January 30th, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, celebrating its 70th Anniversary, performed in Carnegie Hall in tribute to Meir Panim Relief Centers, which feed and care for Israel’s neediest children and families.
The concert was preceded by a Gala Benefit Dinner in memory of the late Leon Levy, z”l, prominent community leader and avid supporter of Jewish and humanitarian causes worldwide.
Proceeds of the dinner and select concert seating will help complete Meir Panim’s $5.6 million kitchen and food distribution center in Kiryat Gat, where warm, nutritious lunches will be prepared and delivered to 50,000 children every day. The campus will be named in Leon’s memory by his wife, Elsi.
The Kiryat Gat facility building is dedicated in honor of Mortimer Zuckerman and his daughter Abigail, who provided a generous starting grant. Mort served as Dinner Chairman, with Malcolm Hoenlein and Elsi Levy as Co-Chairs.
Dinner guests enjoyed exquisite catering by Lederman Catering, whose generosity and expertise was evident and appreciated. The evening’s unique program was produced by Danny Kaizler of IsraEvents, and a special thanks is due to Perry Davis, Sara Hasson, and the rest of the staff at Perry Davis Associates – event coordinators extraordinaire and proud members of Meir Panim’s development team.
Michael Fromm, Chairman of American Friends of Meir Panim, served as Master of Ceremonies and began by thanking the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for their decision to stage a benefit for Meir Panim after the war in Israel last summer. He briefly touched on the critical role played by Meir Panim in the war relief efforts.
Michael then introduced Elsi Levy, accomplished musician and special friend of Meir Panim and the children of Israel.
Elsi spoke about her late husband and their involvement in Meir Panim’s efforts to alleviate the harsh effects of poverty and hunger in Israel. Through his work, Leon had laid the foundations for notable buildings in the New York metropolitan area; the dedication of the Kiryat Gat campus represents his lasting legacy to the sacred ground of Israel.
Elsi thanked Leon’s business partners and associates who contributed generously to honor his memory. After her talk, David Zilbershlag, Founder of Meir Panim, and David Roth, President, presented her with a beautiful plaque and photo album in recognition and appreciation of her devotion to the children.
Her family attended the dinner, noticeably proud of their mother and grandmother.
Toward the end of a sumptuous meal, Michael introduced Ayala Hagag, principal of a school in Israel that receives daily lunches, and more, from Meir Panim.
A slideshow of her students played in the background as Ayala spoke about her school, her passion and determination evident as she related two moving, true stories demonstrating the need for every child to enjoy at least one nourishing meal a day, and the need for after-school youth clubs in economically deprived areas.
Ayala thanked David Zilbershlag and David Roth for launching the clubs that so importantly address the needs of the children.
Hearty applause followed Michael Fromm’s introduction of Avi Albrecht, renowned cantor and Chairman of Major Events for Meir Panim, described as “the driving force and dynamo behind every major Meir Panim event.”
Avi expressed his admiration and gratitude to Arthur Luxenberg for his generosity in dedicating the Meir Panim Kiryat Gat Activity Center in memory of his beloved grandparents, Celia and Jesse Aronson, ob”m.
Avi shared his memories of the Hillcrest Jewish Center in Flushing, New York, where Jesse Aronson was a member of the choir while Leon Levy served as president. Avi presented Arthur with a surprise gift of two beautifully framed sentimental pictures of his grandfather, after which he played a recording of Jesse singing VeleYerushalayim, with Elsi playing in the background. Avi sang along in his warm baritone, and Arthur was visibly moved.
Arthur stepped up to give an impromptu speech about the importance of feeding the hungry, and announced he was doubling his original pledge. He ended by saying he was honored, and felt lucky, to be a part of Meir Panim’s work.