The energy in the air was palpable atop Terrace on the Park in Queens on Thursday evening, as over 700 gathered to celebrate the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) Gala Dinner. This annual event took on special meaning this year, as it coincided with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, and on the cusp of the historic move of the U.S. embassy to Yerushalayim.
In his opening remarks, Dinner Chairman Dr. Joseph Frager, an NCYI Board Member, highlighted the appreciation our community feels towards President Trump for his decision to move the Embassy, as well as for other friendly moves, such as the commutation of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin’s draconia
Rabbi Shmuel Volk, Executive Director of NCYI, shared some exciting news about the powerful organization, which encompasses 135 synagogues and approximately 25,000 families across the United States. New NCYI initiatives include regional conferences and workshops to help young college students deal with anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment on campus.
One cannot overstate how much President Trump upset the diplomatic “apple cart” with the embassy move. Dinner emcee David Drucker, senior political contributor to the Washington Examiner and CNN contributor, echoed the significance of the move.
The first nation to follow the U.S. with an embassy move to Yerushalayim was Guatemala. Mr. Drucker introduced Guatemala’s Consul General, Rosemary Arauz, who was invited to the dinner upon the initiative of Duvi Honig, Founder and CEO of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce (OJC), and recipient of NCYI’s “Young Leadership Award.” Ambassador Arauz noted her nation’s longstanding friendship with Israel, and its place in history as one of the first nations to vote for the Jewish State’s creation.
Mr. Honig presented the Ambassador with a joint plaque from the NCYI and OJC – which heralded Guatemala as “a positive role model for the international community” – as well as a plaque from the Yerushalayim Municipality on behalf of its residents. Yerushalayim Counci
Meaningful Tribute to Taylor Force
The emotions in the ballroom reached its apex as the focus turned to the Taylor Force Act, which would stop US taxpayer funds from flowing to the Palestinian Authority as long as it maintains its policy of financially compensating the families of terrorists – to the tune of $403 million a year. The legislation, which passed the House and is pending in the Senate, is named after Taylor Force, a 28 year old US military veteran and Vanderbilt University student who was murdered near Tel Aviv by a Palestinian terrorist in 2016.
Taylor’s father, Stuart Force, traveled from South Carolina to attend the dinner and encourage the bill’s passage. He was introduced by activist Sandy Gerber, CEO of Hudson Bay Capital, a prominent advocate for the legislation and close friend of the Forces. Stuart received several standing ovations as he stood at the podium to share the painful details surrounding his son’s death, as well as his family’s resoluteness to make this long overdue change in Palestinian policy as a tribute to Taylor.
Stuart was choking on his tears as he spoke about his son’s sunny personality, and his affection for the Jewish People and their Land. He related that for his family today, Taylor’s birthday and date of death are the most significant celebrations on the calendar – but they are looking forward to adding a third date soon, “the day we will travel to the White House to witness President Trump signing the Taylor Force Act.”
Several speakers reiterated their strong support for Israel and the NCYI’s advocacy work, including Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and U.S. Senate candidate Chele Farley. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett greeted the guests via special video message.
Another intriguing video message was from decades ago, when former President Ronald Reagan praised J. Morton Davis for his motivation and in success in the world of investing. “Morty,” as he’s known, and his wife Roza were honored at the dinner for their philanthropy, and particularly their generous support of their local Young Israel shul.
Mr. Davis also serves as Chairman of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, whose Founder and CEO Duvi Honig accepted the “Young Leadership Award.” Reb Duvi spoke about the power of acdus, how much was accomplished by working together with Mr. Davis, Dr. Frager and other Young Israel related askanim on issues of importance.
“I would like to congratulate Duvi and Esther Honig on their 20thanniversary,” exclaimed Guest of Honor Anthony Scaramucci, former White House Communications Director, with a unique down-to-earth style that has won him many fans. Late last year, Mr. Scaramucci went on a whirlwind tour of Israel hosted by the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, which celebrated the launch of its Israel branch. The close White House confidante shared his positive impressions of Israel and the Jewish people, quipping “Welcome to my Bar Mitzvah!”
The sheer energy and breadth of the Young Israel network were on display throughout the evening, as myriad partners – each with his or her unique contribution – were highlighted as honorees. Other honorees included Rabbi Yosef Singer, Drs. Robert and Jennifer Lebovits, Kenneth Abramowitz, Michael and Susan Gross, Stanley Sved, Helen Friedman and Cindy Grosz.
True to its name, the Young Israel movement is forward thinking and strong, over a century after its founding.