JCRC-NY CEO Mark Treyger, Morton Sloan, Karen Spar Kasner, Anna Propp Riesenberg, Avi Kaner, and JCRC-NY President Bennett W. Golub. Photo credit:  Michael Priest Photography

Jewish Community Relations Council of New York 2024 Gala Welcomed More Than 400 Guests to Honor Four Exceptional New York Leaders

The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) hosted more than 400 guests at its 2024 Gala, honoring four exceptional New York leaders at The Plaza in Manhattan on May 20th.

 The memorable and meaningful event paid special tribute to Karen Spar Kasner, recipient of the inaugural Communal Leader Award; Morton Sloan, President, and Avi Kaner, Vice President, who received the Corporate Leader Award on behalf of Morton Williams Supermarkets; and Anna Propp Riesenberg, recipient of the Blumberg Family Young Leadership Award.

Karen Spar Kasner, Board Member, JCRC-NY, and Co-Chair, Center for Shared Society, JCRC-NY, accepted the inaugural Communal Leader Award from Rabbi Menachem Creditor, UJA-Federation of New York’s Pearl and Ira Meyer Scholar in Residence. 

Ms. Spar Kasner said: “JCRC plays a key role at a pivotal time in the history of New York.  Tonight and now tomorrow each of us has a special role and responsibility both individually and collectively to find or provide the resources to educate, to have tough conversations, to connect and make those deeper connections and understandings with those we agree with and those we do not agree with.  We must take action in order to preserve the safety and security of the Jewish people here in New York and in Israel.”

Morton Sloan, President, and Avi Kaner, Vice President, received the Corporate Leader Award on behalf of Morton Williams Supermarkets from Elizabeth Kaner, Mr. Sloan’s daughter and Mr. Kaner’s wife, and Julia Kaner Meisel, Mr. Kaner’s daughter.

Mr. Sloan said:  “The Jewish Community Relations Council is a lot more than a set of initials right now given the challenges that confront Israel and the stain of antisemitism facing Jews both here and abroad. Its work is more important than ever.”

Mr. Kaner said: “You could be secular.  You could be religious, but at the end of the day, we all watch out for each other regardless of our beliefs and this is exactly what the JCRC does.  It’s the umbrella that unites us all together, puts us in a room and is there for us to communicate with the people of New York and the institutions of New York.”

Anna Propp Riesenberg received the Blumberg Family Young Leadership Award from its founders, JCRC-NY Board Member Tom Blumberg and his son Ben Blumberg.

Ms. Propp Riesenberg said: “I’m deeply deeply grateful to the board members and staff of the JCRC for your partnership.  Your creativity and dedication make events like this possible and more importantly bring the JCRC’s mission to life…This award is more than just an honor, it’s a call to action. I’m excited to continue working with all of you to strengthen our community.”

In his welcome remarks, JCRC-NY President Bennett W. Golub said: “Tonight we gather to honor four exceptional individuals, JCRC Board Members Karen Kasner and Anna Propp Riesenberg; and Morton Sloan and Avi Kaner on behalf of Morton Williams Supermarkets. Through their actions and advocacy, each honoree has demonstrated a deep commitment to building a better, safer, vibrant New York for our Jewish community and all our neighbors.  More importantly, each of them continues to help us secure a bright future for the New York Jewish community, the State of Israel, and the preservation and strengthening of the bond between them.”

The audience was greeted with a performance of the Israeli and American national anthems by Cantor Chaim Dovid Berson of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and video remarks from Ambassador Ofir Akunis, the new Consul General of Israel in New York; Hon. Charles E. Schumer, United States Senate Majority Leader; Hon. Kirsten Gillibrand, United States Senator; Hon. Kathy Hochul, New York State Governor; Hon. Hakeem Jeffries, United States House of Representatives Democratic Leader; and Linda Mirels, UJA-Federation of New York President.

Special guests included Ambassador Ofir Akunis; Hon. Mike Lawler and Hon. Jerrold Nadler, United States Representatives; Hon. Letitia James, New York State Attorney General; Hon. Thomas DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller; Hon. Brad Lander, New York City Comptroller; Hon. Mark Levine, Manhattan Borough President; Hon. Donovan Richards, Queens Borough President; and Hon. Farah Louis, Hon. Julie Menin, and Hon. Mercedes Narcisse, New York City Council Members.

Ambassador Akunis said: “I am proud to join you in recognizing tonight’s remarkable honorees…You have all made profound contributions to Jewish communities here and in Israel and in so doing you have strengthened the US-Israel relationship at the time of great need.  Indeed this has always been the JCRC way – progress through dialogue, intercommunity work, and the building of bridges.”

Majority Leader Schumer said: “I’ve always been an immense supporter of JCRC. You’ve been an invaluable resource not just for me but for the entire New York delegation for so many years.  You’re at the front of grassroots coalition building to protect New York’s Jewish community and guard against the terrible scourge of antisemitism…Few organizations have so much reach and do as much good as you do and now more than ever your mission is critical. Our entire city will continue to look to JCRC to continue building bridges of peace and understanding right here at home.  I’ll stand by your side where I’ve always been because I believe in your mission because I know your impact and because without you our city can never hope to be the model of tolerance and prosperity that we strive for.”

Senator Gillibrand said: “JCRC-NY is an incredible resource for the Jewish community in New York especially in these challenging times.  We’re so grateful for your leadership and advocacy as we work together to support Israel and the Jewish community and to combat antisemitism in all its forms.”

Governor Hochul said: “JCRC has been at the forefront, and tonight we’re here to celebrate that…I’ll continue using the full force of our state government to combat antisemitism, and I promise that as long as I’m Governor…I’ll stand to protect the Jewish community. So thank you again for your tireless work, your selfless generosity, and congratulations on another incredible year of service.”

Democratic Leader Jeffries said: “It’s an honor and a privilege to once again have an opportunity to address the JCRC of New York, an incredibly important organization that does meaningful work…My commitment to you as a member of Congress is that I will continue to do everything that I can with the position that I have in the times when it matters the most to ensure that never again unequivocally means never again. The effort to combat antisemitism – it’s not a Democratic issue or Republican issue; it is an American issue and we must all commit to crushing antisemitism and all forms of hatred…We will also continue to stand behind Israel’s unequivocal right to defend itself and lift up the special relationship between the United States and the State of Israel.”

Ms. Mirels said: “I am so glad to join you in celebrating tonight’s honorees and recognizing the vital work of JCRC.  We find ourselves in complex times with increased antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric.  We are grateful to have JCRC as our partner as we tackle these issues strategically and effectively.  JCRC is a bridge builder across all segments of our diverse, dynamic city.  By leveraging relationships with elected officials and community leaders as well as by working with other faith and ethnic groups, JCRC weaves the tapestry of a more interconnected New York that ensures the Jewish community has the relationships it needs in this moment.”

Camille Joseph Varlack, New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ Chief of Staff, and Eric Goldstein, UJA-Federation of New York CEO, provided in-person greetings.

Ms. Varlack said: “I would like to congratulate and thank the JCRC for all you do for the Jewish community and for New Yorkers. Your support cannot be overstated… Protecting our Jewish community is a sacred responsibility and one that we discuss and think about every single day.  Everyone who wears a yarmulke or hijab or any other sign of their faith should feel safe and welcome in our city.”

Mr. Goldstein said: “There has never ever been a more important time in our lives to support the work of the JCRC.  We are proud to be JCRC’s principal funder because the work they do has always been and particularly now is vital to the well-being of the Jewish community.”

The program also featured remarks from Mark Treyger, JCRC-NY CEO, and a L’Chaim, or Toast, for Hope from Marc E. Wolf, JCRC-NY Chief Development Officer, in tribute to Israeli hostages in Gaza and in memory of all innocent lives lost in the war against Hamas.

Mr. Treyger said: “We, JCRC- New York, make sure that we are in the room with leaders when decisions are made that concern the safety, the security, and the well-being of the Jewish people, here in our great City, New York.  And it is also about making sure that we are front and center in grassroots coalitions building multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-racial coalitions to promote a more fair and just society while promoting Jewish identity…Our history and story is more than October 7th. Our history and story are more than the Holocaust. Jewish Americans help build New York and help build the United States of America…That is the work of JCRC-New York, and we are committed with every fiber in our being to strengthening that work for generations to come.”

Mr. Wolf said: “To our fallen heroes, we vow to honor your sacrifices by living life to the fullest and with integrity, to uphold the principles that make the State of Israel and our country here at home the best on Earth…To all innocent civilians caught in the line of fire and their surviving families, our hearts go out to you. Finally, to the hostages and their families, we know you are paying the price daily. We will never forget, and we will never give up hope, we will not stop fighting for you, because until all Jews are free, no Jew is free.”

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