More than 1,000 Ohel friends, supporters, and family members packed the grand ballroom of New York’s Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square to celebrate and honor Ohel’s past and see a glimpse of its future.
On Sunday, November 23, co-presidents of Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services, Moishe Hellman and Mel Zachter, presided over an evening whose theme, “Looking Back, Moving Forward,” inspired many through storytelling videos and live speeches. Special guest speakers included New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York State Senator Charles E. Schumer, and Councilman David Greenfield. The evening’s keynote speaker was Michigan Supreme Court Justice-Elect and disabled rights activist Honorable Richard Bernstein, who has been blind from birth. Justice Bernstein received a rousing standing ovation at the end of his inspirational speech.
Throughout the evening, inspiring videos showcased Ohel’s work as well as the evening’s honorees. The featured video, “Trials and Triumphs,” featured Charlie Harary in one-on-one intimate interviews with five Ohel clients who boldly discussed their challenges and the unfortunate stigmas surrounding their respective situations, and how Ohel has helped to remove the stigmas and help them live a better life. The touching words of these incredible individuals moved the entire room to tears.
The evening featured a memorial tribute to Miriam Lubling, a’h, Ohel’s “Angel of Mercy” and beloved longtime board member and founder of the Bikur Cholim movement. Mr. Hellman remarked that “Mrs. Lubling was neither financially wealthy, nor someone who craved recognition, but quietly moved mountains as a giant in chesed, and helped secure significant funding for thousands of Ohel children and families over the years, as someone driven to make a difference and improve the lives of others in need.” Her family was presented with an award in the shape of a telephone, as Mrs. Lubling was constantly on the phone, always answering the call, and never saying no to anyone in need. Ohel is establishing Ohel Miriam—The Miriam Lubling Center for Trauma and Bereavement in her memory, to be headed by world-renowned expert Dr. Norman Blumenthal. At Ohel Miriam, we hope to provide the same comfort and peace of mind that Mrs. Lubling gave to so many in crisis.
Abraham Banda and Pomegranate, the corporate honoree of the evening, was presented with Ohel’s Community Partnership Award. In a video recorded at the expansive Pomegranate Supermarket, the breadth of Mr. Banda’s commitment to Ohel and the community was clear. Mr. Banda believes in ‘giving back’ to the community and he employs Ohel’s individuals with special needs, as well as hosts Ohel’s Sibshops events for siblings of individuals with special needs. A generous and compassionate philanthropist, Mr. Banda stays actively involved in causes that make the world a better, brighter place to be, “Ohel is certainly a worthy cause and I am honored to be making a difference in the lives of Ohel’s children and families,”
The evening also recognized “The Heroes of Willowbrook,” Rabbi Philip and Rebbetzin Malka Goldberg. Rabbi Goldberg was the chaplain of Willowbrook State School, and spent nearly every Shabbos and holiday with the Jewish residents of Willowbrook. Once Willowbrook closed in 1978, Rabbi Goldberg was instrumental in securing a home for the Jewish residents, and created the successful beginnings of Ohel Bais Ezra–now home to over 450 individuals with disabilities.
As for its future, Ohel unveiled its plans for its new home. For the past 45 years, Ohel has been based in Boro Park, but due to the myriad services offered and increasing needs, a larger campus is necessary. Ohel announced a $10 million building campaign, with plans to move into its new 60,000-square-foot facility at Avenue M and East 14th Street by January 2016.
Over the past 45 years, Ohel has placed 2,500 children into loving foster homes; has provided services to over 1,000 Holocaust survivors to enable them to age safely with dignity, comfort, and support; has counseled thousands of children, teens, and adults every month to help them manage life’s challenges; and has provided expert care 24/7 to over 500 individuals with developmental and psychiatric disabilities in Ohel Bais Ezra residences. As one impressed guest commented, “Ohel isn’t just an organization–it is a chesed factory!”
Ohel extends profound thanks to everyone who attended the gala, made a gift in support of Ohel’s important work, and contributed to the evening’s success, and to those individuals who continue to provide support as Ohel moves forward.
Video presentations shown at the gala, as well as videos of the event, can be viewed at www.ohelfamily.org/gala2014. To support Ohel’s important work transforming the lives of children and families, please visit www.ohelfamily.org/donate or call 718-972-9338. Every gift–of any size–makes a difference.