Leave it to Jerry Seinfeld to transform the Beverly Hilton into an intimate comedy club.
Performing a half-hour set to conclude the American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) Red Star Ball on the evening of Oct. 30, the comedic legend commanded the candlelit ballroom like he was headlining the Improv.
Seinfeld opened the evening with only a few minutes of material — joking about how Gentiles attend events for the alcohol; Jews for the rolls — but he promised he would return at the end of the night. When he returned after 10 p.m., the funnyman captured both the mood of the fundraiser and the comic sensibility he is famous for.
“It’s been a beautiful night of generosity …,” he said. “Now, let’s get back to complaining.”
The gala raised pledges of more than $18 million, a record for any single AFMDA event anywhere in the country, according to an event spokesperson. It also spotlighted the life-saving work of Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s ambulance, blood-services and disaster-relief organization, serving as emergency medical first-responders for the state’s more than 8 million people.
MDA is mandated by the Israeli government to serve in this role, but it is not a government agency. Attendees did their part in assisting with its funding: Humanitarian of the Year Honorees Sheldon and Miriam Adelson pledged $12 million to the organization, and Maurice Kanbar, creator of SKYY Vodka, pledged $5 million.
“My heart is in Israel,” Sheldon Adelson said. “And Israel is in my heart.”
Additional honorees Renee and Meyer Luskin received a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of their support for the arts and education in greater Los Angeles.
Next Generation Award winner Nikita Kahn, an actress, model and animal rights advocate, credited gala co-chair Dina Leeds with instilling in her the importance of supporting Israel.
“Her passion for Israel is contagious,” Kahn said of Leeds, who co-chaired the evening with her husband, Fred.
Additional speakers included Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg and the Leeds’ daughter, Alisa. The latter highlighted the contributions of MDA to Israel. She has volunteered with the organization and called it a model for peace as it treats patients regardless of religion or ethnicity.
Adding a human touch to the praise, a number of MDA medics attended, including Rivka Or, a senior emergency medical technician, and Mohammed “Chamudi” Arrabi, a gay, Muslim medic.
“It makes me happy when I help somebody,” Or said.
Comedian Elon Gold; Rabbi Zvi Boyarsky of the faith-based rehabilitation organization Aleph Institute; USC Hillel Executive Director Bailey London; Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief and Publisher David Suissa and Israeli reality TV star Yossi Dina also turned out.