By COLlive reporter
Photos: Levi Percia
Friends and supporters gathered at The Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights two weeks ago, to mark their annual Gala Dinner celebrating 9 years of promoting respect and understanding.
The evening began with hors d’oeuvres and a smorgasbord for guests in a tent on the plaza of the museum.
The elegant dinner was held in the ballroom on the second floor, and was full to capacity to over 300 people including a dais.
Susan Candiotti, a national correspondent for CNN, was the Master of Ceremonies. She spoke about the Museum and its contribution to the community and its mission of teaching tolerance, respect and understanding.
Candiotti also spoke about her years covering many of the terrorist attacks that have happened over the years.
The program began with the NYPD Color guard ceremony and a blessing from Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Chairman of the New York Board of Rabbis and Chaplain to the NYFD.
Alejandro Rose from M.S. 61 spoke about the day he spent visiting the Museum and how much he enjoyed it. Greetings were then given by Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson, Executive Director of the Museum.
In her address, Mrs. Devorah Halberstam, the museum’s Director of Foundations and Government Services, spoke about the mission of the Jewish Children’s Museum.
Mrs. Halberstam remarked that with the holiday of Passover approaching, she is reminded that the last time her son Ari, who was murdered in a terrorist shooting on the Brooklyn bridge in 1994, was at the Seder table with their family, he was 15 years old.
“Because he was murdered as a Jew, Ari has become a symbol of both the enduring and recurrent nature of anti-Semitism,” Halberstam said.
“By using education as a vehicle to promote greater understanding and tolerance, we here at the Jewish Children’s Museum are sending a very vocal message to those for whom destruction is a way of life.
“We will take active steps to counter terrorism and anti-Semitism by planting the seeds of understanding and acceptance in the mind of each of the thousands of visitors who walk through our doors each year…as we fight baseless hatred with respect and acceptance,” she said.
Letitia James, Public Advocate for the City of New York, spoke about her friendship with Mrs. Halberstam and the impact of her work.
James spoke about a call she received about the day three grades from different Brooklyn Middle Schools spent at the Museum, coordinated by Mrs. Halberstam with the cooperation of the 71st and 77th Precincts. She described the incredible effects of the visit and the educational town-hall style meeting with the students that followed.
Awards were presented to Mr. Scott Becker of the Nissan Foundation, Mr. Roni Shoyfer, Mr. Domenick Cama and Ana Oliveira of Investors Bank and Ari Ackerman and Stephanie Knepper.
Ari Ackerman, who received one of the Young Leadership Awards, spoke of his grandparents and the affect they had on him. All the awardees spoke about their pride to be involved in the Museum.
The Ari Halberstam Memorial Award was given to Frances Fragos Townsend, former Homeland Security Advisor to United States President George W. Bush. She now works for MacAndrews and Forbes Holdings and is a CNN contributor and an expert on terrorism and homeland security issues.
The guests enjoyed the pleasure of a musical quartet that played throughout the evening, which ended with a lovely Viennese dessert table.
Many elected officials were in attendance at the dinner, including David Lobl representing Governor Andrew Cuomo, Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, Borough President Eric Adams, District Leader Jesse Hamilton, Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, Levi Halberstam representing Assemblyman Karim Camara, and Jeffrey Rodus, Deputy Chief of Staff to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Many law enforcement officials were in attendance as well, including Chief of Department Philip Banks, Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan, Borough Commander Brooklyn North Gerald Nelson, Borough Commander Brooklyn South Owen Mognahan, Chief of Operations Brooklyn South Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, Inspector 71 George Fitzgibbon, Inspector 77 Pct Eddie Lott, Inspector Pete DeBlasio Brooklyn South, Inspector Van Gostein Brooklyn South Counterterrorism, members of the Community Affairs Bureau of 71 and Brooklyn South Borough Lt. Jimmy Woods, Sergeant Ira Jablonsky and Detective Vincent Martinos.