By COLlive reporter
Photos: Itzik Roytman
“Today, March 1st, 21 years ago became the day that changed my life. Close your eyes and be in the moment with me.”
That line was said by Devorah Halberstam at the Jewish Children’s Museum’s Tenth Anniversary gala dinner on Sunday, as she described in vivid detail the day her son Ari Halberstam was murdered.
The tent where the dinner was held, set up on Kingston Avenue outside of the Museum to accommodate a crowd of 300, was silent as Halberstam, her voice choked with tears, told of the day on which her life as she knew it ended, and “terror struck my home.”
Ari was shot by Arab terrorist Rashid Baz in an attack on a van full of Yeshiva students driving on the Brooklyn Bridge after visiting the Lubavitcher Rebbe. As she sat by her son’s hospital bedside for the 5 days until he passed away, “I made lifelong promises to him,” she said.
And Halberstam has certainly kept those promises, having since become a renowned expert on terrorism, and dedicating her life to promoting respect, education and understanding through the museum in Crown Heights, built in Ari’s name.
The dinner marked the tenth anniversary of the Museum, which provides hands-on, high-tech lessons about Jewish life and heritage to people of all nationalities from all walks of life. In the ten years since opening, over 2 million people have visited.
“The museum you are standing in today is the keeper of Ari’s memory,” said Halberstam. “It is society speaking. It is demonstrating that we will force the evil of terrorism to stand on the consciousness of every person, and of our collective duty to act. It is the only answer to terror,” she said.
“The museum represents our fight for our culture and our values, and our day to day freedom,” said the evening’s MC Eric Shawn, Anchor and Senior Correspondent for Fox News Channel.
The evening’s Guest of Honor, famed prosecutor, judge, District Attorney and TV host Jeanine Pirro, received the Ari Halberstam Memorial Award. Pirro spoke passionately about her fight for justice for various causes, and especially the freedom of those being tortured and killed around the world.
“Justice is something I have fought for my entire life,” said Pirro. “Devorah Halberstam is one of the many parents of murdered children I have met. But Devorah was different. She had a mission,” she said. “Freedom is not something that is guaranteed, it is something that we must fight for.”
In attendance were Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice-Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch; Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson – Director of the Jewish Children’s Museum; Rabbi Joseph Potasnik – New York Board of Rabbis; Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYS Senator Jesse Hamilton, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, NYC Council members Mathieu Eugene, Laurie Cumbo and Chaim Deutch, Pinchos Ringel from the Mayor’s office and David Lobl of the Governor’s office.
Also there were ADIC FBI NY Diego Rodriguez, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas M. Chan, Counterterrorism Division FBI NY William F. Sweeney, Inspector 71st Precinct George Fitzgibbon, Chief Brooklyn North NYPD Jeffrey Maddrey, Chief Brooklyn South NYPD Owen Monaghan, and Chief Queens North NYPD Diana Pizutti.
Other honorees included Maurice Nseiri, who received the International Arts award and Tzemach David and Daphna Klar, who received the Young Leadership award presented by Rabbi Chaim and Rochi Benjaminson – Directors of the Museum’s Young Leadership Committee.
Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker of the City Council of New York, was presented the Public Leadership Award by New York City Public Advocate Tish James, who praised Mark-Viverito as a champion of New York’s people.
Mark-Viverito thanked the Museum for their commitment and passion to educating the youth to be tolerant of different cultures.
“Children are not born with hate in their hearts,” she said. “It’s learned. This institution seeks to cultivate tolerance and love and make the world a better place,” she said.