American Society for Yad Vashem Holds Its Most Successful Tribute Dinner in Thirty-Six Years

On Sunday, November 12, 2017 the American Society for Yad Vashem (ASYV) gathered at the Pierre Hotel in New York City for its Annual Tribute Dinner, honoring Robert H. and Amy A. Book and Abbi Halpern and Barry Levine. With over six hundred attendees, this year’s Tribute Dinner raised a record-setting $8.5 million, including significant support directed toward Yad Vashem’s unique educational programs with the Israel Defense Forces.

The theme for the evening was “Carry the Torch”, and Dr. Ron Meier, American Society for Yad Vashem Executive Director, remarked, “We are thrilled to honor Bob, Amy, Abbi and Barry, who exemplify our theme of Carry the Torch as distinguished leaders of the 2nd and 3rd generations, respectively. The extraordinary outpouring of attendance and support for our exceptional honorees this evening is a true testament to the esteem in which they are held by family, friends, and those whose lives they have touched. We are grateful to our honorees and to all who are involved for advancing Yad Vashem’s sacred mission of Holocaust remembrance and education”.

Rita Levy and Mark Moskowitz served as Tribute Dinner co-chairs, supported by Dinner Chair Emerita, Marilyn Rubenstein, and Honorary Dinner Chairs were Neil W. Book, Scott M. Book, and Douglas B. Book.

Following the Motzi, led by ASYV Treasurer Marvin Zborowski along with his sons Mark and Ziggi Zborowski, Master of Ceremonies, Tony Orlando, kicked off the evening with stories of his own connection to and support for Israel. He then introduced, Leonard Wilf, Chairman of the American and International Societies for Yad Vashem, who provided greetings and recognized all esteemed Holocaust survivors in the room. Lenny also introduced special guests, including Patrons of the Mount of Remembrance, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, Ambassador Dore Gold, from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Malcolm Hoenlein, from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and senior Yad Vashem colleagues, Dorit Novak, Shaya Ben Yehuda, and Michael Fisher.

During his greetings, Lenny announced the creation of the Eli Zborowski Legacy Circle, to recognize individuals and families who have made Yad Vashem a part of their estate plan.

Following Lenny’s remarks, Mark Moskowitz spoke passionately and personally about his experience on the 2016 Yad Vashem Leadership Mission and invited everyone to join him on the 2018 Yad Vashem Generation to Generation Mission to Vienna and Israel, July 2-9, 2018. In speaking about the 2016 Mission, Mark highlighted the tremendous impact the presence of young leaders had on the mission experience. “It was extraordinary to witness the spark that was ignited in our young leaders – sparks of Jewish identity and a strengthened connection to Israel and their Jewish heritage,” Mark noted, “The transformation of these young leaders left an indelible mark on all of us who shared their experience.”

The event then turned its focus toward the esteemed honorees. Yad Vashem Leadership Award recipients Bob and Amy Book were introduced by close friend and transformational philanthropist Jay Schottenstein, who spoke about their exceptional leadership on behalf of Yad Vashem. Bob and Amy dedicated the Northern Garden of the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in honor of their son Douglas and in memory of Sam Halpern z”l.

Caroline Arfa Massel, ASYV Board member, introduced Young Leadership Award recipients Abbi Halpern and Barry Levine. Abbi and Barry were presented with the Yad Vashem Young Leadership Award in recognition of their extraordinary service as co-chairs of ASYV’s Young Leadership Associates. Abbi and Barry, both members of the third generation, have dedicated themselves to preserving the legacy of their grandparents and all Holocaust survivors and victims and to ensuring that other young leaders will join them in advancing Yad Vashem’s sacred mission.

All of the honorees proudly and enthusiastically expressed their gratitude to the ASYV family and inspired all who were in attendance with their extraordinary vision, leadership, and commitment for Yad Vashem.

Following the award ceremonies, David Halpern, ASYV Treasurer, provided a moving “In Memoriam” tribute to the Holocaust survivors who had been lost, highlighting those from the ASYV community who had recently passed. He concluded his touching remarks with a moment of silence.

The evening culminated with a fundraising appeal led by entertainment industry icon and international philanthropist Haim Saban, who is a leader in his commitment to a strong relationship between the United States and Israel. Mr. Saban spoke passionately about Yad Vashem’s partnership with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to make the study of the Holocaust an integral part of its educational training for 120,000 soldiers each year, highlighting activities which include: day seminars at Yad Vashem for 90,000 soldiers a year, programs at the newly established IDF training base in the Negev, and special programming for the Chief of Staff and the IDF High Command. Mr. Saban’s compelling remarks generated an outpouring of support for Yad Vashem’s programs with the IDF. ASYV Young Leaders, a record number of whom attended the dinner, circulated around the ballroom to collect pledge cards from donors. The Young Leaders all wore custom-designed sweatshirts with the ASYV, Yad Vashem, and IDF logos, which all guests received at the end of the evening.

In closing, MC, Tony Orlando remarked, “We will never forget the six million who perished. As we carry the torch and pass on the lessons from the darkness of the Shoah, the brightest of lights lies right here within each of us.”

The American Society for Yad Vashem is proud to thank all of its friends and supporters for carrying the torch for Yad Vashem and helping to make the 2017 Tribute Dinner by far the most successful one in ASYV’s 36 year history.