Making a good impression on MDA
Alistair McGowan with the dinner committee's Beverley Calvert
The 340 guests at the Magen David Adom UK annual dinner heard from Fabio Capello, Roberto Mancini, Arsene Wenger, Jackie Mason, Woody Allen and William Hague - courtesy of one man.
Impressionist Alistair McGowan was the star turn at the Millennium Mayfair function which raised £1.4 million, far outstripping last year's proceeds.
But the comedian was totally serious when praising the work of MDA, which is largely staffed by volunteers. "It's wonderful what they do and wonderful to hear of people who help with no thought of whose side they are on," he said. "These are people who run towards a bomb to help - it's really amazing."
The key dinner announcement was that UK MDA funding would go to Holocaust survivors in Israel needing emergency medical care.
MDA France will also contribute to underwriting MDA-related expenditure for the survivors, which will cost around £150,000 in the first year.
At present, survivors meet such costs from insurance or individual savings, yet more than half of them live below the poverty line.
Outgoing MDA UK chair Stuart Glyn said the charity was "moved to act" after being alerted to the plight of survivors. "No Holocaust survivor ever need worry about the cost of seeking medical help."
MDA's efforts chime with an initiative by the British ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, who earlier this year revealed plans to help combat loneliness among survivors by raising £2 million for social projects.
In a message to the event, he hailed the MDA commitment as a "wonderful gesture. We owe it to the survivors to ensure that they live out their lives in comfort and dignity."
Among the diners was student Lana Landenberg, who spent her summer working in the Netanya MDA station. "Israelis support MDA but it needs us all to be there for it," she said.
"Without MDA, there wouldn't be an ambulance service to help when there is a terrorist attack, or when someone is having a heart attack, or when a woman is having a baby at home."
Dinner chair Nicholas Springer praised the "overwhelming generosity" of guests, who had responded "in a magnificent way".