By COLlive reporter
Photos: Baruch Ezagui/COLlive
Friends and supporters joined the Gala Dinner of the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights on Wednesday evening, celebrating the positive impact of the landmark institution.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Professor Alan Dershowitz were among the honorees at the dinner, which also marked the 25th Yartzeit of Ari Halberstam HY”D, in whose memory the Museum was built.
Devorah Halberstam, Ari’s mother and co-founder of the Museum, tearfully reminded the guests that we are nearing the holiday of Pesach, when we retell the story of the Exodus to our children.
“My story happened 25 years ago last month, when my 16-year-old first born child Ari was murdered because he was identifiable as a Jew,” Halberstam said.
“We are once again facing anti-Semitic acts against our people with very great frequency,” Halberstam warned. “Painting swastikas on synagogues is not benign, punching somebody in the stomach because they are Jewish is not benign, slashing someone because they are Jewish is not benign…and there is a very short distance between those incidents and the murder of Ari Halberstam or a massacre in Pittsburgh,” she said.
Master of Ceremonies for the event, CNN anchor and journalist Kate Bolduan, remarked that the Museum serves as a model “both nationally and internationally, on how to engage children and adults on Jewish culture and history.”
She praised the Museum as “a place for children of all faiths and backgrounds to learn about and gain a very important perspective on Jewish history and culture,” and whose mission is to “achieve more tolerance and more understanding – one child at a time, one family at a time.”
The 50,000 square foot landmark on Eastern Parkway serves to educate men, women and children of all nationalities and faiths about the beauty of the Jewish life and heritage, and has become an edifice to growth and positivity in the face of tragedy and challenge.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson, co-founder of the Museum, said that over 3 million people have visited the Museum since its opening.
“Those three million individuals come from every community, faith and perspective,” he said. “Success deserves more than a celebration, it deserves more success. In the next 14 years, we challenge ourselves and everyone in our corner to double and triple our reach, and the number of children that we can touch,” he said.
Receiving the NYC Leadership Award, Mayor De Blasio said: “We really need to recognize what this museum stands for and how powerful it is that it exists to begin with. And we need to recognize the extraordinary, powerful life-force that Devorah brings to all she does and how it enriches our city in so many ways.”
Speaking about the rise in anti-Semitism around the country and attacks against Jews in Crown Heights, the Mayor said: “These last months have been tough, they’ve been sobering, they’ve been a reminder that what we’re here to confront is not an easy enemy,” he said.
“Anti-Semitism rooted deeply – and it has to be fought at every turn, and I think that’s very important to recognize. When we see anti-Semitism, we call it out and we confront it every single time that we see it,” he stated.
“When I see a hate crime, I think – how quickly can we show the consequence for that perpetrator? How quickly can we show the community that it will never be swept under the rug or minimized, but, in fact, we take it so seriously that we put all of the resources we have into finding the perpetrator and making clear that there will be real and tangible consequences – to say to everyone else, this matters.”
The dinner ended on an inspirational note, with the performance of an emotional “Ani Maamin” in memory of Ari Halberstam, by singer Eli Marcus.
Renowned lawyer and noted civil libertarian Professor Alan Dershowitz received the Ari Halberstam Memorial Award from Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General of the United States.
Other honorees included Joseph Douek, Commissioner of NYC Planning, Maurice Rosen, and Museum Co-Chairs Serge Hoyda and Joseph and Penina Popack.
In attendance were Ambassador Danny Dayan, Chief Nilda Hofmann – Chief Of Community Affairs/ NYPD, Hon. Chaim Deutsch – Council Member, Hon. Kalman Yeger – Council Member, Chief Dermot Shea – Chief Of Detectives/ NYPD, Captain Richard Taylor – NYPD, Hon. Laurie Cumbo – Council Member / Majority Leader Of City Council, Hon. Jumaane Williams – Public Advocate For The City Of New York, Hon. Eric Gonzalez – Kings County District Attorney, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik – NYBR, Chief Brian Conroy – Chief Brooklyn South/ NYPD, Chief Jeffrey Maddrey – Chief Brooklyn North/NYPD, Inspector Mark Molinari – Hate Crimes/NYPD, Inspector Francis Giordano – 71st Precinct/NYPD, Hon. Robert Cornegy – Council Member, Hon. Diana Richardson – Assemblywoman, Judge Michael B. Mukasey – Former US Attorney General, Chief Rodney Harrison – Chief Of Patrol/NYPD, Chief Charles Scholl – NYPD, Com. Benjamin Tucker – Deputy Police Commissioner/NYPD, Chief Frank Vega – Police Headquarters/NYPD, Chief James Waters – Chief Of Counterterrorism/NYPD.