An elite group of civic, business, and medical leaders gathered at the Museum of Jewish Heritage last month to celebrate 30 years of service to disabled children in Israel and to pay tribute to the honorees and supporters. Gavriel Sanders, a noted TV and radio broadcaster, was the master of ceremonies.
This year’s event was dedicated to the loving memory of Dr. Irving and Mrs. Elaine Shapiro. Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, spiritual leader of Congregation Bnei Israel of Linden Heights, asked the crowd to rise as he recited a moving prayer in their memory. Rabbi Shlomo Braun, founder and director of the Aleh Foundation, then presented their children, Ira Shapiro, Stephanie Cohen, and Josh Kaplan, who flew in from Arizona, as well as relatives from New York, with a New York State Senate resolution remembering their parents’ legacy of generosity and good deeds. Ira Shapiro delivered an elaborate, moving biography of his parents.
When Rabbi Dr. Henry Hasson was introduced to accept the Special Achievement Award, his family and friends as well as all the guests joined in a thundering round of applause. He spoke passionately about his commitment to helping his patients and the less fortunate. Dr. David Staffenberg of Westchester drew a large crowd of professionals from NYU Langone Medical Center as well as guests from Johannesburg. He was the recipient of the Physician of the Year Award and delivered a moving speech about the work he does to improve the lives of disabled adults and children. Ariel Settenbrino of Clifton, NJ, was presented with the Young Leadership Award and was joined by a group of 20 friends as well as family. Ariel twinned his bar mitzvah with a disabled boy in Aleh in Israel and recently joined in a 5K race to raise funds for Aleh. Ariel’s excited group of friends pledged to emulate Ariel’s deeds to help Aleh Foundation for the next 30 years!
A very different atmosphere was felt when Congressman Robert Turner of Queens was called upon to receive his Civic Leadership Award. Congressman Turner expressed gratitude to Rabbi Shlomo Braun for the work he does and publicly thanked him and the Jewish community for the overwhelming support they extended on his day of election. He shared with the audience that while he is pleased with his accomplishments, he is convinced that the young people in the room that night will accomplish even more.
Many friends and family members joined Dr. Vincent Calamia when he received the Medical Leadership Award. He then spoke about his experiences with the less fortunate. “It is not unreasonable to say that caring for the vulnerable and infirm in society is part of the job of every physician and I believe that to be true. We all took an oath before receiving our degrees. For most this is the famous Hippocratic Oath, but my class at the University of Miami chose instead to take the Oath of Maimonides because of its focus on compassion and humility. I will not recite the whole oath but recite a line that held particular significance to me: ‘May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.’ I suspect that Maimonides must have also been a guiding force for the dedicated members of the Aleh foundation, who clearly have seen the pain and suffering of their fellow man and have worked so hard to bring comfort and hope. I am proud to be associated with such fine humanitarians.”
Prior to the program, Life Membership Awards were presented to board members Sam Amster, Rabbi Yitzchok Fleischer, Douglas Jablon, Alisa Kasachkoff, and Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, as well as Ira Shapiro, Ruty Fouzailoff, and Zissy Feferkorn for their steadfast commitment and devotion since the inception of the Aleh Foundation.
The guests were entertained by Chris Astarita and Adir Settenbrino and enjoyed the ambiance and the wonderful food while they were enchanted with the story that MC Gavriel Sanders shared with the audience about his history as a Christian missionary who converted to Judaism. At the close of the event, it was difficult for the guests to part with one another. There was a harmonious, uplifting spirit in the air.
To learn more, call 800-317-ALEH or visit www.alehfoundationusa.org. v