The UK branch of the New Israel Fund celebrated a record attendance and pledges from its annual dinner as it is honoured one of Israel’s leading lights in London on Sunday.
Some 450 guests raised £260,000 — double last year’s result — at the dinner, where author Amos Oz was presented with the organisation’s human rights lifetime achievement award.
Dinner chairman Jane Grabiner said Mr Oz was “Israel’s voice of conscience and exemplifies the values that are at the core of NIF’s work”. Describing him as “Israel’s greatest living author”, NIF chairman Nicholas Saphir added: “We are celebrating the work of a superhero.” Such had been the demand for tickets that many potential guests could not be found places.
Those who did make it included prominent community figures such as UJIA chairman Mick Davis, his predecessor David Cohen, Sir Trevor Chinn and Lord Levy.
The NIF’s UK arm was founded 20 years ago and supports causes in Israel ranging from religious pluralism to help for asylum seekers.
Although the organisation has long attracted support from non-Orthodox rabbis, two Orthodox rabbis were at the dinner — Natan Levy, the interfaith consultant to the Board of Deputies, and David Mason of Muswell Hill Synagogue.
Mr Oz — who received two standing ovations — said he was accepting the award on behalf of “an entire community of Israelis who have been struggling for decades for civil rights and for peace”.
Lychee martinis and Moroccan chicken served in individual tagines were on the menu for guests, who each received a copy of Mr Oz’s newly published essay, How To Cure A Fanatic.
NIF international president Rabbi Brian Lurie said that raising money for Israel was not as easy as it once was. He was executive vice-president of the United Jewish Appeal at the time that American Jewry raised close to $1 billion to aid the exodus of Soviet Jews to Israel in the 1990s.
“If you want to marry your Zionism with your Jewish values, the one organisation that can help to do this is the New Israel Fund,” Rabbi Lurie said.
Mr Oz also addressed a Movement for Reform Judaism audience of 200 on Jewish identity at Finchley’s Sternberg Centre on Tuesday.
He observed that “Jewish civilisation is a civilisation of doubt and argument”.